Requests for Consent to Sublease an Existing Cell Tower Lease

At Cell Tower Attorney, we are frequently contacted by landowners regarding a wireless carrier’s rights to sublease its leased premises to other carriers. A sublease is when a wireless carrier leases its existing premises, in whole or in part, to another carrier for the same permitted use. In the cell tower industry, subleasing is a very common practice between all of the wireless carriers.

Depending on the language of the cell tower lease, a wireless carrier or tower company may or may not be entitled to sublease its premises. For example, many leases between tower companies and landowners permit the tower company to sublease to third parties without notice to or consent of the landowner. This is primarily due to the fact that tower companies are specifically in the business of subleasing space to other carriers (unlike wireless carrier’s whose primary business is to operate its network). On the other hand, cell tower leases between landowners and wireless carriers often vary when it comes to subleasing rights. Some leases permit the carrier to sublease the premises without the landowner’s consent. In other leases, the carrier is only required to notify the landowner. Finally, more favorable leases require notice to and consent from the landowner. In these situations, the landowner may be entitled to additional compensation for providing its consent.

Unfortunately, the wireless carrier does not inform the landowner of its rights under the lease. In many instances, the carrier simply sends the landowner a letter requesting the landowner’s consent to a sublease without indicating what rights, if any the landowner has under the lease. Many landowners, in turn, mistakenly sign the letter and thereby waive any rights it may have to object to the sublease or seek additional compensation.

If the wireless carrier is required to obtain landowner consent or if the existing premises are insufficient to accommodate the additional subtenant’s equipment, the landowner may be entitled to compensation for such consent or additional space. The amount of compensation, however, may range widely depending on various factors such as where the property is located, the perceived value of the property, as well as the actual subtenant involved.

In addition to the amount of compensation, the type of compensation may take different forms. For example, a carrier may offer (i) a one-time payment, (ii) a monthly amount, or (iii) a percentage payment based on what the carrier receives from the subtenant. A landowner should evaluate the consequences of each type of payment before deciding which one is appropriate. Moreover, there may be other types of payment structures that may be utilized depending on the landowner’s needs. If you are looking for information regarding the appropriate amount of compensation, our related company, Steel in the Air, can assist you with negotiating a fair market rent for a cell tower sublease.

At Cell Tower Attorney, we have negotiated thousands of cell tower leases and assisted numerous landowners in addressing sublease rights. Through our experience, we can quickly review your lease to determine what rights you may or may not have in connection with subleasing and we can also provide input regarding fair market rental rates for providing consent to such subleases.

If you have been approached by a wireless carrier seeking your consent to a sublease or if you believe that a carrier may have already subleased the premises without your consent, please feel free to contact us. We may be able to help you negotiate for additional monies going forward or seek payment retroactively for subleases made without your approval.

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