Recent Changes in the Law That May Affect Leases with Wireless Carriers

In the article, “Reader Alert: New FCC Rules Affect New and Existing Cell Site Leases” published by the California Real Property Journal of the State Bar of California, co-authors Christina R. Sansone and Natalia Shparber inform public and private cell site landlords about an important recent development in telecommunications law. The article discusses the recently-published Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Report and Order (FCC’s Order) which interprets a new federal statute, Section 6409(a) of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 (Section 6409(a)). The new statute radically changes the process by which certain cell tower permits may be granted or denied by local agencies. Key takeaways from the FCC’s Order for cell site landlords include:

  • Definitions of key technical terms;
  • Guidelines for understanding the FCC’s Order;
  • How certain new limitations to a local government’s zoning and land use authority may affect cell site installations or modifications on a landlord’s property.
  • Anticipated challenges to Section 6409(a) and the FCC’s Order.

In this era of skyrocketing mobile usage, a landlord should be vigilant about protecting the property and understand the practices used by cell site tenants that may compromise a landlord’s rights. The article contains a number of recommended practices such as periodically auditing the leased premises to verify compliance with the terms of the lease, and attaching copies of plans and permits to document each change in the cell site. A landlord should also look for opportunities to amend the lease in the event a tenant wishes to expand the size and scope of the cell site.

Read full article.