Telecoms Mast Tribunal Sets Precedent
Tribunal Decision Is Good News for Existing Telecoms Mast Site Owners
Since the introduction of the new Electronic Communications Code in late 2017, Telecommunications Operators have been busy attempting to reduce rents under powers granted by the new Code. This has seen many mast site owners being offered a fraction of the rent that they were previously achieving for their sites. However, good news is on the horizon for landowners unsure of what the future holds for them.
This is due to a decision in a recent Upper Tribunal case, CTIL v Ashloch and AP Wireless (2019), which found that the Operator, who had served a lease renewal notice to the Landowner under Paragraph 20 of the new Code, had been incorrectly using Code powers where they did not actually apply.
The mast site that was the focal point of the above Tribunal case had been let to the Operator by the Landowner prior to the introduction of the new Electronic Communications Code. This was the crucial fact in this case.
The case clarified that where the mast site was let to the Operator before the introduction of the Electronic Communications Code (in December 2017), the lease is governed under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954, rather than the new Code. The notice procedure under the new Code is therefore not relevant and the legal process for tenancy renewals under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 must be followed instead. This resulted in the renewal notices served by the Operator being rendered completely invalid.
Robert Jauneika, Chartered Surveyor for H&H Land & Estates explains the impact this decision will have on the industry:
“This is good news for many mast site Landlords, as the lease renewal terms under the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 (including the calculation of rental value) is more favourable to the Landlord than the valuation of the same under the new Code. Under the Landlord & Tenant Act, the rent calculation relates to the open market value of the lease, whereas the new Code states that the rent is to be based upon consideration, with Operators typically arguing that the consideration for agreements under the new Code should be based on surrounding land use value, which leads to very low rental levels, especially for those sites in agricultural surroundings.
“If you have an existing telecoms mast site and the lease is approaching the termination date, you would be well advised to seek professional advice in relation to the negotiation of the lease renewal and to ensure that the value of your site is maximised. The decision reached by the Tribunal, in this case, has fundamentally changed the negotiating position of many Landlords and Tenants of existing mast sites.”