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Ken Schmidt's company helps with negotiating prospective cell tower leases and renegotiating or selling existing ones. He can't find a wireless carrier for your property but if you've been approached by one, act quickly and visit his site now. Highly recommended.

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WiWCell Site Leasing Information

Cell site leasing information (1) (2) (3) (Help with cell site lease questions) (Government agencies) (Lease sales)

By Mark van der Hoek and Tom Farley

Questions

I want to lease my site for a tower
What does a lease pay?
A practical example of costs
A Connecticut example
I'm concerned, someone is putting up a tower near me
I've put up my own tower. Now what?
Is there a generic lease form?
Don't get a contract like this. Get a lawyer!
What's the carrier's viewpoint these days on leasing property?
Any other possibilities?
Anything else helpful to read?
I need help! With my contract, with negotiating . . .
 
I want to lease my site for a tower
 
Q: I have hill top property that would be great for a cellular tower. There's a road to the top and the site has electric power. How do I find someone to lease my location?

99% of rural properties have no value
 
A: You think it might be great. But if a wireless company or tower company hasn't contacted you then you're probably out of luck. Using their own engineering studies, these folks decide where they want their towers and then they contact nearby landowners. They know about your hill already and most likely don't need it. Well, 99% of the time.

You can try contacting the cellular carriers in your area but it isn't easy. Try talking to the local RF Engineering department, or ask specifically that your message be passed on to them. If they need a site in your area, they will know and are the best place to start. Also, there are tower companies that have the inside track to the carriers. They can make getting the carrier's attention much easier. The problem with going that route is twofold:
 
1. The tower companies take a big cut of the action. They will typically get 50-70% of the rent.
2. There are disreputable operators who will cause you more problems with the carriers than you can believe. Every area seems to have them.
 
If you decide to use a tower company, stay with the national firms. Here are a few reputable companies:
 
http://www.sbasite.com/ (external link)
 
http://www.aatcommunications.com/ (external link)

For how to deal with a tower company, check out a consultant like Steelintheair.com (internal link)
 
If you sign with a tower company, make sure you get a percentage of any FUTURE rents. That is, they may have a carrier who is interested; let's say Verizon. So they sign a lease giving you 50% of the Verizon rent. BUT! Down the road along comes Sprint and locates on the same tower, and you get ZERO. Watch for that. You should get 20-30% of any FUTURE rents.
 
Building a tower is expensive, and the carriers usually prefer to rent on a tower and have someone else build and own them. The tower companies NEED to get the majority of the rent to get a return on their investment. But you shouldn't get shut out completely.
 
To better your chances of renting your property, do some homework to make life easier for the carrier or tower company. Get the latitude and longitude and elevation of the spot you have in mind. Don't guess at it -- get a GPS reading or a survey if you already have one. (They're expensive -- don't have one done on your own dime.) Provide this information in your first contact.
 
One more thing -- don't assume that a hill is the best place. Depending on the area, a hill may be a great location, and it may be a nightmare. I have had to gently let down more than one person who had dollar signs in their eyes, thinking that their hilltop was a perfect site. But higher isn't always better. And make sure you don't limit yourself to commercial wireless companies. See below.
 
Mark van der Hoek
 
What does a lease pay?
 
A: It depends on the area and other factors, but what I've seen is around $800 - $1500 per month for a typical raw land build. Sometimes $500, but that's pretty low. For a rooftop site, it varies even more. I've seen them as low as $250 (rare) and as high as $10,000. VERY rare! If you have difficult building conditions, they'll want a lower rent. For example, if they have to trench a quarter mile to bring in electricity and phone connections, that's a big expense up front. If someone is going to build a tower, be sure to get a percentage of any future rents. And keep in mind that most tower companies are in financial trouble these days. There's considerable downward pressure on costs.
 
Mark van der Hoek
 
Interested in e-mailing Mark? E-mail me: privline@pacbell.net and I will send you his current address. Thanks, Tom Farley
 
A Connecticut example
 
Q: We own a self storage facility in Conneticut and were approached today by a communications company for the purpose of marketing our location for a monopole type tower. They have sent me a lease for $500 per month which runs for 10 years and they plan to sub lease out to various companies ( up to 3). My first concern is my tax increase which will be based on $42.00 per $1000.00 of assessed value. The lease is not triple net so I would be responsible for the taxes which could exceed the rent based on what I have heard the facilities cost. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
 
A: Well, I spent almost six months in Connecticut last year, so I know a bit about the business there. First, regardless of the money offered, if it's going to increase your taxes by more than it brings in, it's a bad deal. Talk to your accountant or a good tax man. Second, you should get more like $1000-$1200 (in some areas, $1500), and a percentage of any future rents. 10% to 20% is common, but they hate to pay it. Third, it is VERY difficult to get a monopole built in Connecticut, so don't expect anything to happen in a hurry. Expect 6-18 months. Every new tower in CT must go through an approval process before a State board, the Connecticut Siting Council. They have preemptive authority over local zoning. They will consider the local zoning board's opinions, but they will make their own decision. They are tough. This is the only state in the Union where testimony on zoning matters is considered sworn testimony and is subject to perjury penalties. So don't sign ANYTHING that obligates you in any way if the tower is not approved by the CSC.
 
Mark van der Hoek
 
A practical example of costs
 
Q: A Large Wireless Carrier has approached my husband and I regarding placement of a 250' tower on rural property we own. A hilltop location with no road up the mountain or electricity. They are offering $700 per month for the first five year term, with the option to renew for five (5) more five year terms with an increase of 15% per lease term. Do you think this sounds fair?
 
Any information you can share with us would be greatly appreciated since we have no prior knowledge of what is fair or not and not a lot of money to hire a lawyer to research this.
 
A: That figure seems close for rural property, but there is no law against dickering! I wouldn't take their first offer. Since they have to put in a road and electricity, and possible connection to a telephone network, the site is already going to be expensive for them. But it partly depends on what they want to use it for.
 
If they want it for a cellular tower only, I'd say you are doing pretty well with that offer. (A cheap build should bring more - maybe as much as $1000-$1200.) However, if they intend to put a microwave hub there as well, you can probably get more. Find out if they are indeed a national wireless company or just the local telephone company offering cellular service. Their needs are different.
 
You may be their first choice, or their last hope! I don't know how you'll find that out, but it obviously is very important to the negotiations. Sniff around, but be cautious. Where money is involved, neighbors can get nasty. I've seen it too often to count.
 
As I wrote in my previous comments, I would recommend that your contract include a percentage of any FUTURE rents. At least 10% and I think you should be able to get 20%. Now, that large figure may never happen if your property isn't located where it fits another carrier's network plans. Ask if the tower will be sold to a tower management company. Make sure your contract spells out that any conditions are inherited by anyone to whom the carrier sells the tower.
 
Some other random thoughts: Take a look at the proposed location and see how something there will affect your property. What will it do to the resale value? What about the view? If they won't come up on rent amount, can they extend a road or build a fence or bring in electricity or do something else that will be of value to you?
 
Mark van der Hoek
 
I'm concerned, someone is putting up a tower near me
 
Q: Mark:
 
I have a small electronics business on the ground floor of a 3 story building. My landlord wants to lease roof space to Verizon to install and use an "unmanned wireless telecommunications facility, consisting of 12 panel antennas, 1 parabolic antenna, 1 GPS antenna, and associated equipment." Do you think that the placement of this equipment might pose any technical problems to my operation?
 
A: Verizon, Sprint, and Cricket use CDMA technology, which is the least likely to cause problems. I wouldn't worry about it if I were in your situation. But ask the building owner to include a non-interference clause in the contract. Talk to your lawyer for specific wording. You want it to say that in the event of problems caused by any wireless carrier, that they will fix it to your satisfaction or go away. Insist on this. And the more wireless services, the more chance of them mixing to produce a signal that will bother you.
 
If your landlord is interested, explain to him the cost/benefit equation of having you sue him for ruining your business if he doesn't take the reasonable and prudent precaution of including a non-interference clause. Don't let the carrier brush you off with claims of being compliant with FCC regulations. That's true, and you probably won't have a problem, but you want some legal teeth in case it does happen. The FCC has almost no budget for enforcement - you'll be on your own. But with a good contract, I'd be happy to have them on my roof. The rent check would be nice.
 
Mark van der Hoek

I put up my own tower. Now what?

I hope you get some renters. It's quite possible that you've built in an area where all the carriers already have plenty of sites, and you'll be looking at an empty pole for years to come. Spec poles are risky business. It's very much NOT a "build it and they will come" business. This last summer I got hammered in a zoning meeting because the locals complained about a tower that had been approved several years before, and was STLL empty. "Why can't you go on THAT tower? Why do you have to build a NEW one?" Well, the tower was empty because it was in a lousy location. It happens.
 
Mark van der Hoek

Is there a generic lease form?
 
Q: We have a few office and industrial buildings and are considering leasing the space out to a wireless carrier. Do you know where we could obtain a generic type contract that would cover and protect these types of transactions?
 
A: John C. e-mailed to suggest this excellent link. It's a blank lease for a tower site. Although government oriented, your lawyer could rework the text to make it fit your situation. E-mail me if the link dies; I have the file archived: http://www.mrwa.com/modelsitelease.htm (external link)

l site leasing information (1) (2) (Help with cell site lease questions) (Government agencies) (Lease sales)
 
Steel In The Air graphic

Steel In The Air.com (external link). Consulting for carriers, tower companies, and property owners. Have you been approached by a carrier? Are you re-negotiating a lease? Do you want to market your property to the wireless industry? Click here for more information. (internal link)

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privateline.com logo http://www.privateline.com: West Sacramento, California, USA. A Tom Farley production

 

 

 
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