Terms for hosting mobile phone masts are to change

editorial image

Farmers and landowners with mobile masts either on their land or on buildings are advised to negotiate lease reviews sooner rather than later.

The new Telecoms Code, currently being debated in Parliament as part of the Digital Economy Bill, is likely to come into force in spring 2017, and could mean radical changes for mast rents.

Currently, site providers and operators are free to negotiate a market rent. However, the bill will end this and landowners (which includes churches, charities, schools, local authorities, farmers and private individuals) will be paid on the basis of land value; likely to be at much lower rates.

Currently the average rent deal is £6029 according to estate agents Strutt & Parker, although in rural areas this is often lower.

Where operators share a mast it adds between £750 to £1,500 a year to the rent. However, the proposed Bill will allow operators the rights to share sites, assign leases and upgrade equipment without further payment or the need for the landlord’s permission.

Ian Thornton-Kemsley, Scottish telecoms specialist at Strutt & Parker, said: “It has become clear that agents for operators are approaching landowners across Scotland and the rest of the country seeking site leases on very operator-friendly terms and in some cases offering rents of just £3,000 and demanding unrestricted rights.

“When lobbying the Government for reform of the Telecoms Code, operators have claimed that landlords are effectively holding them to ransom. We have found little evidence of ransom in the market place. They also claim that average rents stand at £7,506. Not so, apparently.

“The Government’s changes to the code are now so operator-friendly that there is likely to be little incentive for farmers and other site providers to agree terms.”

“Landowners need to preserve their position, so they can litigate under the old code, rather than the new one.”