Rooftop or Tower Cell Site Leases - What Are the Differences?

Many building owners view the prospect of leasing their rooftop as a "no brainer". In other words, it is merely a lease of unused space and "found money". While it may be unused space, the fact remains that there is a market for such space, specifically the telecommunications market, and the rental amount paid by the cell carrier should reflect this. In addition, there is an entirely different set of issues that a building owner must consider when entering into a rooftop cell site lease. Among these are the structural impact of the equipment on the building as well as the means and hours of access to the building.

While a rooftop lease and cell tower lease are substantively similar, a rooftop lease always provides for less space for the cell carrier's equipment and typically doesn't involve ground excavation. Under the cell tower lease, the tower is built and owned by the carrier or third party tower company whereas under the rooftop cell site lease, the carrier is only entitled to its leased space and the building owner reserves the right to lease other areas of the rooftop to other carriers for additional revenue.

Without input or oversight from the building owner, a carrier will utilize the rooftop space to best serve its purposes in the cheapest design possible. They are not concerned about the prospects of other carriers leasing the rooftop from the building owner.

Another issue of concern in the rooftop cell site lease is the manner in which the carrier installs its equipment. Because timeliness and cost are its primary concern, the carrier may inadvertently puncture holes in the roof membrane causing leaks, invalidate the building owner's roof warranty, or even comprise the structural integrity of the building. In addition, the installation of associated wires, cables, and antennas may require core drilling through stairwells in the building. In many instances, we have even seen wires and cables run through other tenant's offices in the building. Once the construction is completed, many building owners have had extreme difficulty in getting a carrier to repair such damage. We can assist you in negotiating language to address these construction concerns.

Access to a rooftop owner's building is another important consideration. During construction of the cell site, one can expect that the carrier's construction crew will be at the building on a daily basis, for as long as 4-6 weeks until the construction is completed. Thereafter, the number of carrier personnel visiting the site will be fewer (one or two), however, they will still need access to the leased premises on a regular basis and at anytime in the event of an emergency. A building owner should be mindful of this impact on its use or other tenants' use of the building. In addition, a building owner may have existing rules and regulations regarding such access such as security badges or access through alternative means. While the standard rooftop cell site lease allows the carrier to have 24/7 access, we can help you negotiate reasonable limitations on the manner and hours of access so that there is little or no disruption to other tenants in the building.

Cell Tower Attorney has assisted many rooftop owners negotiate rooftop cell site leases that address construction and access issues as well as any other issues or concerns regarding a rooftop cell site lease.

If you have been approached by a wireless carrier interested in entering into a rooftop cell site lease, please feel free to contact us for assistance.

Our seasoned partner company Steel in the Air are experts at rooftop cell site lease assessment. They can help you understand how your lease compares to other leases in the area based upon their cell site lease rent database.

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