Scottish farmers and landowners with mobile phone masts on their land have been advised to get on the front foot and sort out their agreements with the telephone companies before changes to legislation are introduced next year.
Ian Thornton-Kemsley, telecoms specialist at property consultant Strutt & Parker, warned farmers that the new rules, currently being debated in parliament and likely to come into force in spring 2017, 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 practice and landowners will instead be paid on the basis of land value, regardless of what use it is to be put. This is likely to be at much lower rates,” he said.
Thornton-Kemsley also pointed out most current leases restrict the right to share sites with other operators or assign leases and upgrade equipment because of the potential impact on the land while the proposed bill will allow operators the rights to share sites, assign leases and upgrade equipment without either further payment or the need for the landlord’s permission.
Even existing agreements may not survive a post-bill onslaught, he warned: “Potentially, operators will be able to use break clauses to bring existing leases into the new provisions.
“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to review terms now to ensure landlords are in the strongest possible position.”