In October 2019, we reported on the Government's introduction of the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill 2019-20 to Parliament. In summary, the Bill seeks to make it easier for an operator to install electronic communications equipment (notably broadband infrastructure) into a flat block where the landlord has ignored requests from the operator for access. These rights will supplement the already extensive rights afforded by the new Telecoms Code that came into force in December 2017, following the Digital Economy Act 2017.
Our previous article setting out in more detail how this procedure would work can be found here.
After the recent general election, the Government is pressing ahead with the Bill and it is now progressing through Parliament. We expect the Bill to pass and to come into force by summer 2020. This could have a significant impact on landlords, as it will reduce the timescale for operators to gain the right to access a property from two months to around six weeks and could result in as many as 3,000 court applications per year by operators, which landlords would be forced to defend in order to deny access.
Landlords may not always want to have cabling installed into their property due to the impact that this might have with regards to any development or works of repair that they might want to undertake and which might be frustrated by having a Telecoms Operator in their property. Accordingly, these new rights will put landlords into a difficult position. Whilst there are steps that can be taken to try and mitigate risk this is still an unwelcome development for landlords.
As this Bill progresses through Parliament, landlords should be giving serious thought as to how they deal with the grant of such rights in their leases and whether to implement a broadband/telecoms strategy for their businesses.
Should you have any concerns about how this might affect your portfolio please feel free to contact Dan Cuthbert, Danielle Spalding or Rachel Small at Foot Anstey LLP.