To ask the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, what steps she is taking to ensure that social housing landlords are not unduly burdened by additional maintenance costs to their buildings following the installation of 5G antennas and similar equipment by telecoms firms.
The legal framework underpinning rights to install and maintain digital communications infrastructure on land is contained in the Electronic Communications Code (the Code).
The Code does not give operators unilateral rights to install apparatus on private land. Such rights can only be obtained with the occupier’s agreement, or, in cases where an agreement cannot be reached, by application to the tribunal. The majority of Code agreements are negotiated by mutual consent between operators and occupiers. The recent Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Act 2022, contains measures which encourage parties to engage in alternative dispute resolution. These measures are designed to make it easier for parties to reach an agreement consensually.
The agreement reached between the parties will typically provide for the payment of consideration, which is the amount the relevant person, who is often the landowner, receives for permitting telecommunications apparatus to be sited on its land. In addition, the parties may agree an additional amount of compensation to cover any loss or damage which the relevant person will incur because of the telecoms apparatus being installed or the operator exercising its rights under the agreement. This could include additional maintenance costs incurred.
This is reflected in the Code by a requirement for the tribunal to make an order in relation to consideration and a discretion given to it to make an order in relation to compensation, if the parties are unable to agree and the tribunal imposes a Code agreement.
Taken together, the provisions on consideration and compensation mean that landowners, including social housing landlords, should receive a fair payment for allowing their land to be used in the rollout of vital digital services.