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Don’t rush to sign new telephone mast deals – wait for key Scottish ruling instead, farmers are warned

Over recent weeks mobile phone operators have been urging farmers to commit to lease renewal terms for existing mast sites on their properties in Scotland in advance of a pending Tribunal decision that could prohibit the contract terms they are proposing. 

The mobile operators are offering significantly lower payments than the current rents received from these sites as well as their standard terms, which often change many aspects of the agreement in their favour, but they are offering one-off inducement payments, often in excess of £10,000, to property owners on condition they sign an agreement within the next few weeks. 

This timescale is likely to be prior to an expected key Lands Tribunal for Scotland decision on whether the mobile operators can legally demand a replacement lease under the new Electronic Communications Code, which is aimed at modernising the UK’s telecommunications system. 

The proposed terms often contain provisions which will be detrimental to the property owner, such as giving up rights to all future rent reviews for the term of the agreement. 

Farmers are being warned against rushing to sign new terms on the siting of masts on their property as mobile-phone operators look to agree rights to retain telecommunications equipment on their property. 

 

Mike Reid, Head of Energy at the property consultancy Galbraith, urged caution:

Our advice is, seek independent advice and don’t rush into anything,” he said. “The Scottish Lands Tribunal is due to decide on a case that could have a direct bearing on the agreement proposed by the mobile operators and generally speaking, farmers could agree better terms than the terms being proposed by the mobile operators.

Mike Reid added:

Any delay in agreeing new terms with the operators won’t affect mobile coverage or connectivity in the area as the mobile operators are already operating from these sites with the protection of the Code.  The proposals received can also be quite misleading implying that the new Code rights are required for the operation of the site, which is often not the case.