Landowners: Clarification Achieved on Interplay between Electronic Communications Code and Landlord and Tenant Act 195423rd January 2020 - Published by
Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd v Compton Beauchamp Estates Ltd  EWCA Civ 1755
Since the introduction of the new Electronic Communications Code (the “Code”) at the end of 2017, clarity has been required as to the interplay between the Code and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.
What does the Code seek to do?
The new Code seeks to give security to operators, necessary for the provision of the telecommunications network. The Landlord and Tenant Act gives security to tenants and requires landlords to satisfy certain grounds in court before it can obtain vacant possession of the land.
Whilst the new Code addressed the interplay between the two pieces of legislation by introducing a similar process for termination of Code rights as exists under the 1954 Act, questions arose whether it was possible to have both the protection of the Code and the 1954 Act in relation to old leases i.e. those which existed prior to the introduction of the new Code.
What has now been clarified?
In the case of Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Ltd v Compton Beauchamp Estates Ltd  EWCA Civ 1755, the Upper Tribunal (UT) clarified that it does not have jurisdiction to impose rights on an operator and a landowner of a telecommunications site under the new Code, where the operator is in occupation of the land under a subsisting agreement (being telecoms agreements entered into prior to 28 December 2017).
In the case, Vodafone as the occupier of a rooftop site pursuant to a lease granted on 14 June 2002, ‘held over’ and remained in occupation. Vodafone assigned the lease to Cornerstone in 2019, who served notice on the landlord under Part 4 of the Code, hoping to be granted a new lease that would be imposed on the landlord at a lower rent.
What impact does this have on my rights?
Following the decision, the UT held that only an occupier can confer rights and established that such subsisting leases are excluded from renewal under the Code.
Subsisting leases should be renewed under the 1954 Act, by application for a new tenancy to the County Court. This is because, through permitting the operator to rely on the Code to seek a new agreement when in occupation, it would allow for them to escape the 1954 Act’s open market rental valuation assumptions and longer notice periods, in disregard to the terms of an existing tenancy.
It should be noted that contractual licenses over the land, subsisting agreements where the parties have contracted out of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 and agreements entered into on or after 28 December 2017, should be renewed in accordance with Part 5 of the Code and its “no scheme” valuation under paragraph 24.
If you have land occupied by a Telecommunications operator and want to know your rights under the Code, or have been contacted by a Telecommunications Operator wanting to install apparatus on your land under the Code and want further advice, please contact Rebecca Jones on 0161 838 7889 or contact us.