Luke, how do I instigate a renewal of my mast agreement?
Before you do anything in a telecoms lease renewal, it is crucial that you get some valuation evidence from a suitably qualified telecoms surveyor. We work with telecoms agents from all over the country who will be able to tell you what your mast site is worth in the current market.
In many cases, mast agreements which were completed some time ago will be at very low and outdated rents, yet unless and until a renewal is instigated, the operators are not obliged to pay anything else. Clearly, there is no incentive for the operators to alter this situation, so the onus is very much on the landowner to drive the process forward.
This all assumes that your telecoms lease benefits from security of tenure under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (which will be the case in the majority of instances), in which case the operator is legally entitled to a new lease. If the lease has been duly contracted out of the 1954 Act, then you are likely to be in a much stronger negotiating position and the renewal could be offered to the operator on a take it or leave it basis.
OK, what next?
You might also take into account other practical issues, such as the availability of suitable alternative sites. If the choice is to maintain your income at the current rate, or else see the operator relocate to a nearby site, then you might choose to 'stick rather than twist'.
Assuming, however, that the rent is due to go up on renewal and nearby alternative sites are relatively restricted, then a renewal notice must be served under the 1954 Act, to commence the lease renewal process.
How long does that process take?
A telecoms lease renewal in the current market is unlikely to be quick or easy. The operators are trying very hard to depress rents. This is why we strongly advocate having your valuation evidence in place from the outset, to give you every chance of reaching agreement at an early stage.
If you don’t do this, then a lease renewal could very easily end up lasting years rather than months. We advocate a pro-active strategy using our knowledge not only of the legal process but the market to get you the best result and maximise the value of your asset. In some cases, Court proceedings might be necessary to achieve this. As a team we have the experience and expertise to run such an action.
Once I’ve agreed heads of terms with the operator, how had I best document the renewal lease?
Where any landowner is thinking of granting or renewing a lease of a mast site, it is important that advice is taken from specialist telecommunications advisers rather than from professionals whose specialism is simply commercial property transactions. Lettings of phone mast sites are a wholly different matter from letting commercial buildings. If the value of the site is to be retained and the income maximised it is essential that specific terms are incorporated in mast site agreements.
Our telecoms team has many years of experience of negotiating and completing mast agreements for landlords.