De-coding the new Telecoms Code
University and college estates teams will be familiar with managing any telecoms masts and other infrastructure on their land and buildings, and dealing with operators. However, institutions need not be fearful when confronted by the demands of a telecoms operator, as it is possible to navigate the Electronic Communications Code to ensure that your land truly remains your own.
By way of example:
Operators offering substantially reduced rent
Whilst rent under new telecoms agreements was predicted to fall as a result of the new rental valuation in the Code, operators are proposing rents as little as 1% as compared with previous levels, which is completely unacceptable to landowners.
Institutions can avoid the new rental valuation in the Code if it can be argued that the existing telecoms agreement in place is not a code agreement at all, but a lease that falls within the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
Landowners are starting to receive hostile letters from telecoms operators and their agents demanding to be permitted onto their land to conduct surveys with a view to imposing a new telecoms agreement upon a landowner.
Institutions should not permit access upon receipt of such letters. Whilst operators have an entitlement to apply for an agreement to be imposed for access and for other rights, they must adhere to a strict notice procedure before they are permitted onto land. It is advisable to seek advice as soon as these “access requests” are received, so that you can be directed through this process.
The Code has introduced a lengthy termination and removal procedure involving landowners being required to give a minimum of 18 months’ notice.
Institutions may be able to side-step giving such a lengthy notice if the current telecoms agreement ends on a date before 27 June 2019. If this is the case, instead of 18 months’ notice, the notice required to be given is either the unexpired term of the agreement (which will be no more than 18 months) or 3 months, whichever is greater.