RF Exposure from the Building Owner's Perspective

Building owners who have leased or are considering leasing their rooftop to wireless carriers should consider the long-term ramifications from doing so.  Obviously, determining the fair market value of the lease is paramount.  However, there are a couple of regulatory requirements that building owners with cell site leases should be aware of and concerned with.

First, many building owners have expressed fear or uncertainty regarding the health concerns related to rf exposure from antennas on rooftop sites.  It should be noted however, that personal injury resulting from cell phone related radio frequency ("rf") exposure is not a scientifically or legally accepted proposition.  In particular rf exposure is not a concern for the occupants of buildings with wireless communication facilities on the roof because the antennas are highly directional, such that all of the energy is directed away from the building.  Usually there are three sectors of antennas, each providing 120° of coverage.  The antennas are designed to emit signals only in the designated arc of 45° to 60° to either side of the center line of the antenna.   To direct the radio transmission in a specific direction, the back of the antenna, which faces the building, is shielded to prevent energy from being lost.   Accordingly, little or no radio frequency radiation is present behind the antennas.

As a result of these perhaps irrational fears, some municipalities are requiring regular documentation of rf radiation or exposure. In fact, landowners or building owners with existing leases may receive a letter from the local municipality stating that they are required to provide this type of documentation.  Some of our clients are already receiving these letters.  Much of this documentation is required to be provided by the wireless carriers leasing space on the rooftop, however the individual building owner does have some responsibility in regards to radio-frequency emissions and protection of the building residents or workers who occupy the building.

Secondly, many wireless carriers have added backup power to a significant number of their cell sites. This backup power typically is provided on rooftops by battery backup systems. These battery backup systems may contain mercury or other harmful chemicals. While the carrier is responsible for their own equipment and the handling of hazardous chemicals on the property, the landowner may have responsibility for notification to government authorities in the event that the cumulative level of mercury are other chemicals exceeds Federal, state, or local limits.

If you are a building owner who is considering leasing space or has already leased space to a wireless carrier, Cell Tower Attorney can review your particular situation and determine what liability and responsibility you have regarding both of these issues. We can provide an opinion letter that clearly explains what you as the building owner should be doing regarding rf exposure safety and how you should proceed with notifying the proper regulatory agencies regarding chemicals stored on the property. We can help reduce or eliminate the liability that you might face from placing wireless cell sites on your rooftop. For condo associations considering a cell site lease we can provide guidance on how to protect the condo association from liability for failing to meet condominium by-laws and regulatory guidelines.

Please contact us for additional information.  If you are looking for guidance on the fair market value of a cell site lease, please see Steel in the Air’s webpage on fair market value of leases.  You might also find value in our articles on rooftop leases.

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The above information is not legal advice. This information does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Cell Tower Attorney. If you have a legal issue that you wish to discuss, please contact one of our lawyers.