Cell phone usage has skyrocketed to the point of near saturation in the US. According to Pew Research Center, 95% of adults have a cell phone & a growing share of Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home. In 2016, wireless subscribers’ connections hit 377.9 million, with over $1.4 trillion (yep, trillion with a “t”) having been invested globally in the last 18 years. This is BIG business & there are opportunities for landowners to capitalize.
Companies like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint continue to explore options to meet their wireless customer demands, and part of this search includes the construction of new cell sites across the United States. Cell sites come many sizes, from a traditional tower that is big enough to climb, to an antenna that sits hidden on a rooftop, only seen by those flying over.
The opportunity an HOA can capitalize on is negotiating a cell tower lease agreement that ensures consistent rent for years, often decades, to come. There are certain pros and cons that an HOA or Condo Association must ponder if a cell tower company or wireless carrier approaches them about putting a tower on their property.
- Additional Income: If an HOA/Condo Board can properly structure a cell site agreement, it can not only see immediate rent revenue, but can also see additional upside revenue based upon the utility/value actually being derived by the wireless carrier or cell tower company’s use of their property.
- Improved Cell Service: A new cell site in a community will not only serve the needs of wireless customers in the area, but can also be promoted by an HOA or Condo Association as an amenity that can be used by their residents either by way of those in their community that work from a home office, or those who have made their homes “Smart Homes” with the installation of smart technology (sound, lighting and even appliances) that rely on wireless connectivity.
- Lump Sum Cash/Capital: If an HOA/Condo Association elects to do so, it can actually sell its cell tower or rooftop antenna lease for a one-time lump sum payment that can be used by a community for various projects. Many third-party companies presently exist that will pay a lump sum payment for the revenues generated from the cell site lease. If negotiated correctly, the community can retake control of the lease once the existing lease term expires.
- Health Issues: Many people have raised concerns about the health risks of a cell tower on their property, or, even more troubling, cell site equipment on their rooftop. Even with the American Cancer Society providing several reports that they have found no direct links between cell towers and the development of cancer, many still protest cell towers in their communities. Providing information to its residents and structuring a cell tower lease that protects is a priority.
- Aesthetic Concerns: Residents of any community always have valid concerns about the aesthetic impact on their property. Wireless carriers do often try to “stealth” their equipment by way of an installation that looks like a tree, clock tower, flagpole or other similar facility. However, many times these installations rarely blend into the community as expected. As a result, a community must determine if the financial benefits of a cell tower lease outweigh the atheistic impact.
- Tenant Management: Management of a cell site lease is vastly different from the normal requests and issues that a HOA/Condo Association may presently handle. The community management team (either internal or external) could see request that they are unfamiliar with. For example, the site owner is often hit with a surge of access requests due to ever-growing operational/modification needs of wireless carriers and cell tower companies to stay current with technology standards in the wireless industry.
With the right deal in place, a cell tower could benefit your neighborhood now and for years to come. However, the pros and cons must be weighed against each other based on your particular situation. As with any long term contract, we advise getting the best information and counsel you can before making a commitment.
About the Author
Hugh Odom is the President & Founder of Vertical Consultants, a cell tower lease-consulting firm. Before founding Vertical Consultants, Mr. Odom worked for ten years as an attorney for AT&T, negotiating cell tower lease agreements. He now brings his experience and expertise to help landowners and property managers secure the best deal possible for their properties. Learn more at https://www.celltowerleaseexperts.com/