Farmers and landowners who host telecommunications masts are being urged to review their contracts with operators ahead of a major overhaul in the law.
The Government’s Electronic Communications Code, which is expected to come into force later this year, will give telecommunications operators similar rights to utilities companies, which could signal a fall in rents and more powers to access or acquire private land.
Rental levels could fall from over market rental payments for land to payments similar to wayleaves. Communications watchdog Ofcom has launched online consultation on the proposals that is open to June 2.
Steven Corfield, head of FBC Manby Bowdler’s Agricultural & Rural Services team, said the move would have serious implications for the agricultural industry.
“This new code is likely to have major repercussions for anyone who has a telecoms mast on their land but, so far, many of those concerned seem unaware of the affect it may have on them.
“Until now farmers and landowners were at liberty to negotiate a fair rent based on market value for having a mast on their land. But some operators claim they are being forced into overpriced agreements, so the new code will limit how much landowners can be paid.
“It will also award automatic rights for the operators to upgrade and share their equipment without the landowner’s permission so you could lose out on any future additional site sharing sub rents.
“It’s a double edged sword as the move is being forced to help improve connectivity, particularly in rural areas, but it’s people like farmers who live in the rural areas who are being penalised.”
Steven said now was the time for farmers and landowners to assess their existing agreements.
“Dig out your existing agreements and check the small print,” he said. “If there is room for negotiation, now is the time to see if you can improve your lease.
“If you’re concerned about the viability of your contract, get some legal advice. Operators may be unwilling to engage as the change is looming but now is the time to ensure you have a watertight lease,” he added.
For further advice, please contact Steven Corfield on 01743 266268 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, find out more about our Agricultural legal services
The Ofcom consultation on the Electronic Communications Code can be found at www.ofcom.org.uk/ consultations-and-statements.