Telecommunications leases in lockdown: obligations of landowners and operators
The reliability of telecommunications networks has become ever more important during the Coronavirus pandemic. The Government has designated telecommunications as a critical sector, which must continue to operate even while lockdown measures are in place.
Leases to telecommunications operators typically include the right to enter land to install telecommunications equipment and to carry out works (including repairs) to that equipment. Landowners and operators alike may have concerns about their ability to comply with lease terms in the current circumstances, especially where equipment is located close to a home or where access is required through an occupied property.
Although the parties’ obligations will largely depend on what the lease says, the general position is that:
- landowners must allow operators to exercise their rights of entry in accordance with the lease. Although it would be good practice for the operator to notify the landowner in advance so that they can make any necessary preparations, if an operator turns up without notice and is allowed to do so under the lease, the landowner must permit entry or risk a claim for breach of the rights granted under the lease;
- operators will have an obligation to keep the equipment in safe repair and condition, which they must continue to comply with. Failure to do so could lead to a claim from the landowner if the equipment causes damage to its surrounding property; and
- operators must comply with statute and government guidelines regarding safety, regardless of whether this is expressly written into the lease. The lease might also state that the operator must comply with the landowner’s requirements, in which case the landowner will have more control over the safety and social distancing measures taken by the operator.
In any event, the Government has made it clear that operators and landowners must co-operate with one another to ensure that the telecommunications sector can continue to function effectively and that operators must act responsibly to protect the safety of their employees and landowners.
For practical guidance on the impact of Coronavirus on commercial property (as well as a range of other practice areas and sectors), please visit our dedicated Coronavirus Hub.
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
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