Rental returns for hosting electronic communications have fallen dramatically – despite rising demand from phone network operators.

Whereas an Edinburgh rooftop site could have commanded an annual rent of £20,000, property owners are now offered a range of between £3,000 and 5,000. More worryingly, since the introduction of the 2017 Electronic Communications Code, there has been a major shift in the way that main network operators (MNOs) are treating landlords.

Litigation to obtain sites is the norm, with some 150 applications a year from operators to the Lands Tribunal for Scotland (LTS)

Operators now seek wide rights over the whole property and are reluctant to shift from their standard agreements. In one case currently before the LTS, a company is seeking rights of access and rights to instal electronic communications apparatus anywhere in or over the whole of a building despite the existing lease and the access being restricted to a small part. In another case, an operator sought rights which could have restricted development within line of sight of the mast anywhere over 19,000 acres owned by the landlord.

Tribunals have tended to support unrestricted equipment rights, despite the fact that the Code omits any specific right to “add” to the electronic communications apparatus.

In some instances, wide rights to instal equipment have severely impacted property, rendering maintenance almost impossible.