Generally, landowners think that telecommunication equipment is “a nice little earner”. The Operator takes a small area of land, pays over an annual rent – which is periodically reviewed upwards – and all that with little, or no, inconvenience. Whilst that is right, there have always been traps for the unwary. The increase in telecommunications is considered to be beneficial to the economy and therefore the legislation and code are beneficial to the Operator.
The new Electronic Communication Code brought into effect under the Digital Economy Act 2017 has made the position of the Operator stronger and financially more advantageous.
The principal changes are that:
- The Operator will now be able to assign its interest in the equipment without restriction albeit subject to giving a guarantee similar to an AGA.
- The right to share equipment without paying an increase in the rent.
- The right to upgrade the equipment without paying an increase in the rent.
- The method of calculating the rent has been altered in a way which should lead to lower rents.
The new Code only affects new arrangements so those who already have arrangements, tenancies or licences may well try to keep those going for as long as possible. The Legislators have thought of that and have incorporated transitional provisions to make the new Code applicable to old tenancies or licences albeit with certain modifications.
Given the advantages to the Code Operator under the new Code, can a landowner just refuse to allow new telecommunications equipment to be placed on his land? Regretfully, if the Operator wants to place telecommunications equipment on land, and if there is no agreement, it can make an application to the Court who will, in certain specific circumstance, approve the necessary Order permitting the equipment to be installed on terms it decides.
Because of the newness of the provisions there is no guidance as to how the Courts will react but generally a negotiated settlement is preferable.
The blog does not deal with the details of the new Code. Because of the intricacies of the new Code, any landowner should seek advice before entering into an arrangement with a telecommunications operator.
If you require any further information please contact me on:
Telephone: 01793 848900