The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has issued guidance aimed at telecommunications operators and landowners with telecoms apparatus on their land, to make sure that networks remain operational during the pandemic.
With movement restrictions in place, it is now more important than ever that everyone has access to a high quality and reliable phone and internet service, to be able to work, stay in touch, and unwind.
Landowners with telecoms apparatus on their land may receive requests from operators for access, in order to carry out emergency repairs or upgrades or to install more equipment.
Six Considerations for Landowners
If your agreement with an operator allows them access to inspect, maintain, adjust, repair or upgrade apparatus (in any emergency or otherwise), you should, as a minimum, continue to observe the terms of that agreement.
If the terms of access are onerous, consider whether these requirements can be relaxed (for example, temporarily waiving a long notice requirement). This may avoid the need for the operator to apply to the Tribunal to secure emergency access.
Where access may be difficult in practice, consider putting measures in place to facilitate access (for example, key drops, remote access or letting the operator use a different access route).
If the property is occupied, warn occupiers of the operator's proposed entry and make arrangements to comply with social distancing guidelines (for example, consider coordinating access for a time when the occupiers are out or when there are fewer people present).
If an operator needs rights which it does not have, consider granting those rights on narrow and temporary terms (for example, for access to inspect apparatus on neighbouring land, on a single occasion). This may avoid the need for the operator to apply to the Tribunal to secure emergency access whilst minimising the risk to you of inadvertently granting wider rights.
Where you do agree concessions or temporary arrangements with operators, make sure that you have a robust paper trail to explain what has been agreed and why. It is wise to seek professional advice as soon as possible, to ensure that the limits of any agreement are clearly laid out, any rights remain temporary and any long-term implications or prejudice to existing rights are properly understood.
Above all, landowners should try to act reasonably and to balance the needs of operators and society, their own needs and rights, and the needs of their occupiers, employees and agents.
If you are a landowner and require specialist legal advice relating to an operator's request for access or other rights during the coronavirus, please contact Michelle Bendall in our Real Estate team on 07940 933 587or complete the form below.