Phone mast operators issue Section 26 Notices

Phone mast operators have started to issue Section 26 Notices and landlords are unsure what these mean and what they need to do. Here’s a brief overview:

A telecoms lease is a commercial lease which will have protection under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (unless specifically opted out). This gives the tenant the automatic right to renew the tenancy on similar terms, subject to modernisation. In order to instigate the renewal of a protected tenancy, the tenant can serve a ‘Section 26 Notice’ on the landlord. This sets a deadline for a new agreement to be negotiated.

Recent attempts by telecoms operators to renew agreements centred around the Electronic Communications Code (ECC) which was amended in 2017 by the Digital Economy Act. Operators were keen to use this new law as the valuation mechanism they used produced very low rents. However, case law CTIL v Ashloch Limited and AP Wireless II (UK) Limited [2019] UKUT 0338 (LC) states that Part 5 of the ECC which deals with the renewal of existing tenancies cannot apply retrospectively. Therefore, if a lease benefits from protection under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, it is to be renewed under this law and not the Electronic Communications Code.

In the beginning, operators continued to try to force ‘New Code Terms’ on landlords. However, recently, we have seen operators appearing to concede this point and issue Section 26 Notices on landlords with protected tenancies. Despite this positive step, the terms they are seeking to agree are still in line with the ‘New Code’ and not based on the valuation principles of the Landlord and Tenant Act as they should be. Therefore, there is still some way to go to achieve what is fair under the correct application of the law.

If you have received a phone mast Section 26 Notice and need some advice, please do not hesitate to call us. We will happily review your situation free of charge and advise on the best way forward.