As announced in the Queen's Speech, on 15 October 2019 the Government introduced the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20 into Parliament.
The Bill seeks to make it easier for operators to install electronic communications equipment (notably broadband infrastructure) in to flat blocks where the landlord has ignored requests from operators for access.
The Bill proposes to amend the 2017 Electronic Communications Code to allow operators to apply for interim Code rights where:
- The premises are occupied under a lease
- The lessee in occupation requests an operator to provide services under the Code to the premises
- The operator cannot fulfil the request without the "required grantor" (e.g. the landlord) agreeing to be bound by the Code right
- The operator has served formal notices requesting access
- The landlord has failed to respond to the operator's notices.
The procedure currently provides for a six week application process, which includes two formal warning notices to be served by an operator on the landlord, and a final notice followed by the Tribunal application. Following this process, any interim Code rights granted will be for a specified period of 18 months.
If the operator wishes for the Code rights to continue beyond the interim period, they will need to reach agreement with the landlord or apply to the Tribunal under Part 4 of the Code.
The landlord will have the ability to challenge the interim code rights by applying to the Tribunal.
We are not sure that increasing the already extensive rights of operators will necessarily lead to the faster roll out of broadband. We are concerned that it is the unbalanced nature of these rights which is causing the delivery of these services to stall as landlords try to understand the Code and how this might impact on their property portfolios.
Landlords must now give serious thought as to how they deal with the grant of such rights in their leases and consider implementing a broadband/telecoms strategy for their buildings.
Should you have any concerns about how this might affect your portfolio please feel free to contact Dan Cuthbert, Rachel Small or myself at Foot Anstey LLP.