Requests for Consent to Modifications of a Cell Tower Lease

In addition to assisting landowners negotiate new cell site leases, Cell Tower Attorney also advises leaseholders when approached by carriers requesting modifications to existing leases. As technology advances and demands on existing networks increase, cell site carriers are frequently seeking to, among other things, increase or change the size of the leased premises, the scope of the permitted use, the number and size of antennas as well as sublease the premises or assign the lease.

We have recently been contacted by many landowners who have been approached by existing cell tower tenants such as Verizon and Sprint seeking to install additional equipment or antennas on their leased premises. The request is typically in the form of a letter in which Verizon or Sprint briefly describes that they intend on installing a certain number of additional antennas and associated equipment (in some cases a microwave dish) and requesting that the landowner sign the letter to indicate his or her consent to the modification. Although the landowner is asked to sign the letter, it does not specifically state that landowner approval is required and in some instances, the letters state that the modifications are permitted without such consent.

We believe that these letters are purposely written in this vague manner so as to infer that the carrier has the right to make such modifications without further approval from the landowner. While a typical cell tower lease allows the carrier to replace existing antennas or “swap out” one antenna for another similar one, it may or may not be permitted to add additional antennas without the landowner’s approval. In some jurisdictions, a carrier may be legally required to file an amendment to an existing zoning permit as well as file additional construction drawings. This may be another factor in determining if landowner approval is necessary.

In determining one’s rights when evaluating a proposal for site modifications, a landowner must closely examine the language of the existing cell tower lease. At Cell Tower Attorney, we can quickly review your lease to determine what rights, if any, you have to approve or reject such modifications. We have reviewed thousands of leases and know exactly what clauses are triggered by such a request and we have experience in working with the carriers in interpreting various lease clauses in the landowner’s favor. We are very familiar with many different types of equipment modifications and we know what market value is placed on each modification in different parts of the country. If you receive a letter from a carrier or tower company requesting certain modifications to existing equipment, do not assume that you are obligated to sign such a letter or that the carrier has the right to make such modifications. Rather, you should thoroughly review your existing lease to determine the carrier’s rights and obligations. There may actually be an opportunity for additional revenue. If you are looking for information regarding the appropriate monthly rental amount, our related company, Steel in the Air, can assist you with negotiating a fair market rent for a cell tower modification.

If you need assistance in reviewing your cell tower lease or you believe that the carrier may have already installed additional equipment without your consent or without additional compensation, please feel free to contact us. We may be able to help you negotiate for additional monies going forward or seek payment retroactively for modifications made without your approval.

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