Tower Seekers' Cell Tower Ministry
Since 2006, Tower Seekers has ministered to church and non-profit cell site landlords. It has offered advice, counsel, protection and advocacy to help bring fairness and justice to cell site leasing. Property owners are at a significiant disadvantage when negotiating with some of the largest coroporations on Earth. Tower Seekers ministry is about doing our Father's business zealously and ethically.
As a Christian, attorney, and real estate broker, I was called to this ministry. God blessed me with talents and skills uniquely suited to educating and protecting his people. He expects me to bring the truth to those I minister and to my opponents. Tower Seekers team members must also be held to the highest standards. After all, we are all subjects of God's Kingdom.
Our cell tower ministry is carried out each day by counseling clients about how cell tower leases are created and managed. We pray with church pastors and leaders seeking God's wisdom and direction as important decisions are made. We step into the ring to fight for fair lease terms including rent, termination rights, and indemnity protection. When the cellular or tower company tenants fail to hold up their end of the bargain, we stand with our clients seeking justice but we also bring solutions.
After almost a decade of service, we know cell site leasing is about much more than money. While the main focus seems to stay on this, we remember that the money itself says "In God We Trust." We know from experience that factors such as risk, hidden costs, and committment play large roles as church landlords consider a cell tower lease.
It has been a privilege and a blessing to serve the Lord through this cell tower ministry. We will continue to answer His call.
Beware Md7's Latest Letter To Cell Site Landords
Md7, LLC is a company used by the wireless industry to do its dirty work. Like it's cousin Blackdot Wirless, Md7 uses questionable tactics to induce cell site landlords to change the terms of thier leases. For years, the tenants in cell site leases have sought to change the terms of their leases when they decide it is no longer their favor. More recently, the tower companies such as Crown Castle and American Tower doing the same with leases they bought.
The latest letter sent by Md7 takes the cake in terms of bad information and long-term impact. Cell site landlords should first carefully read the letter. Then they should carefully read the lease. After a reading of both, it should be obvious that the proposed changes to the lease overwhelmingly favor the tenant. The tenant gets a rent reduction, sigificant change in the rent escalator, expansion of permitted use, 24/7 access, and a right of first refusal. Interestingly, the tenant also gets a lease extension. In exchange, the landlord gets....wait for it...a guarantee of keeping its reduced rent for five years!!
The letter states that signing up to this deal is an "opportunity to minimize the business risks associated with industries uncertainties and increase the value of your cell site lease." Business risk implies cell site leases can be terminated by tenants easily. Landlords should carefully review their leases to understand what termination rights exist. To state that such a modification increases the value of the lease untrue unless, of course, they mean the value to the tenant.
When you get a letter from Md7, do the research, ask questions and get help.
Five Way Towers Seekers Can Help BEFORE You Get A Lease Offer
Preparation. The key to success in any endeavor is preparation. In the case of cell site leasing, few property owners approached for a cell site lease are prepared for the role of cell site landlord. Tower Seekers' goal is to prepare property owners for this unique and sometimes challenging job. We know that an educated and informed prospective cell site landlord maximizes the benefits while minimizing the drawbacks. A prepared landlord is a successful landlord.
Property owners may rightfully ask. "Why do we need Tower Seekers before we start the process of the cell site lease?" Here are five reasons:
1. Understand the process. Knowing what to expect brings value and gives the landlord an advantage. There will be no surprises.
2. Evaluate your property. Getting a solid understanding of your negotiating position can only come from a reliable evaluation of your property. Reliable information can only be obtained by an on-site evaluation.
3. Trusted resource. Who can you trust for help with a cell site lease? The tenant's representative? Your business attorney? Yourself? Tower Seekers can be trusted to provide reliable and accurante help.
4. Advocacy. When the time comes to negotiate, there is no better advocate. Our credentials and experience are unmatched. Because we know you and your property, we hit the ground running when a lease offer comes.
5. Competitve Advantage. With preparation, you have the advantage over other nearby properties and the tenant. You know what you need to know before you need it.
Tower Seekers will help prepare you to handle a cell site lease opportunity. With preparation, you will succeed.
Nextel Sites Still Being Decommissioned
Sprint continues to send letters to Nextel landlords with notice of lease termination. Md7 continues to contact landlords with a proposal to sign an early termination and general release. We have encouraged landlords to carefully review their specific situation and seek assistance before signing documents presented by Md7.
The latest round of letters makes December 31, 2014 the termination date for the lease. Md7 then steps in attempting to pursuade the landlord to alter the original terms of the lease allowing Sprint to walk away from the site. Neither Sprint nor Md7 has visited the site to know its particular configuration or impact on the property. They use a shotgun approached hoping to be relieved of responsibilty for removing the site and restoring the landlord's property to the original condition.
Tangible Benefits of a Cell Site Lease Review and Site Audit
The average cell site landord is a wise, hard-working American focused on the things most important to him or her: family, career/business, leisure, and, of course success. When it comes to the details of the landlord's cell site lease and the goings on at the cell site, the average cell site landlord assumes everything is fine. While this may be true the saavy landlord knows its true. How? The landlord has recently reviewed the lease and audited the site.
Today, more than ever before, cell site landlords are getting calls, letters and emails pertaining to their lease and/or site. They are being asked to consider proposals for new leases, lease extensions, site maintenance/modification and lease buyouts, just to name a few. The assumption on the part of those submitting such proposals is the landlord is the aforementioned average cell site landlord. Why this assumption? Well, it is true. Combined with typically smoothe talking salespeople, the average cell site landlords ignorace produces bad results. How do we know? Well, we have seen enough leases and sites first hand to confirm this fact.
A cell site lease review and site audit establishes a baseline. It shows the landlords a current snapshot of the lease in the context of an ever-changing wireless world. It documents the details of the lease and site as of a specific date which may have been decades following the orginal lease. A lease valuation will provide useful information about the market value of the lease and its desirability to potential buyers. In short, following a lease review and site audit, the landlord will know exactly where he or she stands.
Tangible benefits coming from the lease review and site audit may include rent increases, cash compensation, termination fees, larger and more frequent rent escalations, more control over site modifications, and higher sale value. There's never been a more important time to know the answer to the question...
What's in your lease?
Cell Site Lease Renewals - A Huge Wave of Opportunity Forms
If your cell site lease was originally signed prior to 1994, it is likely that the lease term will be expiring in the next few years. Many leases signed during this period had maximum automatic term renewal of 20 or 25 years requiring their renewal or extension prior to expiration. Since it takes many months and sometimes years to deploy new sites, tenants must take action years before the term expiration to sign a renewal with the landord. If they are unsuccessful in renewing, a new site must be chosen to replace the lost lease.
Landlords are being approached with extension and renewal offers. We read several such offers and have not been impressed. With few exceptions, the inital offers are a simple extension of the existing lease for up to 50 years. In some cases, a modest rent increase is offered and, in others, a rent reduction is proposed. No matter what the proposal, the wise landlord stops, carefully reviews the lease, audits the site and seeks assistance, if appropriate.
Landlords should be aware of the opportunity created by the lease term expiration. As the expiration date approaches, the landlords negotiating power increases. Significant increases in rent may be necessary to bring the lease up to market value. While it may be true that moving the site is a possibility, the costs of deploying a replacement site are high and the environment today is far less friendly for new sites than it was 20 years ago. So, if the tenant threatens to move its site, do your homework and make an informed decision. A great deal is at stake.
ALERT: Cell Site Tenants Breach Leases and Create Trespass
The need for cell site audits by landlords has never been greater. As cell site tenants continue to upgrade and reconfigure their networks, cell sites are being modified. In many cases, the modifications are taking place without the landlords knowledge in direct violation of the lease. This problem is widespread and with little or no concerns from the tenants. Their approach seems to be along the lines of "beg forgiveness rather than ask permission."
Many cell site leases require notice and approval before making any site modifications. Failure to comply is breach. Many such modifications add equipment to the existing site and occupy space outside the lease premises. This is trespass and also a breach of the lease.
It is incumbent on landlords to be diligent in controlling access to their sites and inspecting them regularly. If changes have already been made, landlords should investigate the changes to determine whether trespass exists. Tenants must be notified per the lease agreement and appropriate remedial action taken.
Without diligence and action, tenants will be free to do as they please at the expense of the landlord.
Top Three Trends in Cell Site Leasing
Cell site leasing is a unique blend of legal, real estate and technical disciplines. Almost any property owner qualifies to be a landlord if a cell site is needed in close proximity. However, the majority of property owners are not equipped to manage the process of becoming a cell site landlord. The cell companies, tower companies, and the various vendors deploying new sites, taking down old sites, and upgrading existing sites prefer the uninformed landlord. This gives them the upper hand in a lucrative, long term lease negotiation.
Attorneys with cell site landlord clients should be aware of the seemingly constant changes in the telecom industry impacting leases. Lately, the whirlwind of activity has kept even the closest observer busy.
In recent months, three important trends have emerged in cell site leasing.
1. Mergers and Acquisitions. A flurry of M&A activity in the telecommunications industry has impacted nearly every cell site lease nationwide. For example, Japan’s Softbank acquired control of Sprint and has announced aggressive plans to build a network to compete with Verizon and AT&T. T-Mobile’s acquisition of Metro PCS will result in the termination of hundreds of leases as the two networks merge. In addition, T-Mobile and AT&T sold their cell tower assets to tower companies thereby becoming the tenant in thousands of leases. Lastly, AT&T bought the parent company of Cricket Wireless, taking down yet another regional cell company.
2. 4G Site Upgrades. Cell companies continue to spend billions improving their networks to compete and keep up with consumer demand. All domestic companies have now deployed the fourth generation (4G) Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Tens of thousands of cell sites are being upgraded to LTE requiring replacement of old equipment and installation of additional components. Such upgrades may significantly modify the design of the site and alter the lease premises. In some cases, tenants are not notifying their landlords prior to commencing upgrades.
3. New sites. The four major cell companies, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, have all announced aggressive plans to bolster their networks. This is requiring many new sites to be deployed mainly to handle the explosion in data. Expanding network capacity takes precedence over covering un- or underserved areas. Most new sites are designed similar to those that have been deployed for the past 25An array of antennas is placed about 50 feet high on a tower or structure connected to cabinets placed nearby. As the ability to deploy such sites becomes more difficult due to space constraints and zoning restrictions, companies are looking to small cells for the answer. Lightweight and easy to install, small cells are being installed in stadium and campus venues. AT&T has announced plans to deploy 40,000 small cells in the coming months.
Many sites now have new tenants while the original occupant remains. Since leases will be changing hands, landlords will be challenged to stay on top of the tenant’s identity, rent payment handoffs, and site modifications undertaken by the occupant. The site upgrade process continues to raise important concerns such as tenants’ giving prior notice, obtaining landlord consent, access restrictions and modified lease premises. With all the current activity at cell sites, landlords are wise to visit and inspect their sites frequently. The new traditional sites will bring familiar leases. Small cell sites will bring changes in every aspect of the process including lease terms. In either case, landlords armed with the right information and tools will make the most of a cell site lease opportunity.
Why You Need A Cell Site Management Plan
Cell site landlords with three or more leases need a management plan. We recommend reviewing your leases annually and setting up a calendar of important dates. For example, if the rent escalates annually, insert a calendar reminder to verify the rent increased per the lease. Also, check the amount to make sure it is accurate. Some leases have the dreaded CPI escalator which requires the application of a formula to determine the new rent amount. Don't rely on your tenant to do this correctly. Other calendar reminders should include term expirations and a bi-annual lease valuation.
Managing multiple leases can be challenging. Some landlords such as school districts have five to fifteen leases all on different locations and timelines. Just keeping up with who the tenant is can cause headaches. Besides the annual rent check described above, at least every other year, the landlord should make a visit to each site looking for any changes, maintenance issues, or repair needs.
For some landlords, it makes sense to pay someone to handle the management of the cell site leases. The manager should be able to demonstrate how to either save the landlord time and money, make the landlord money or both. Landlords with multiple leases should see a return on their investment.
Md7 Now Working On Nextel Decommissions
Tower Seekers has learned that Md7, LLC has been contracted by Sprint to administer the next phase of the Nextel decommissions. Letters are being sent to landlords outlining an offer that includes leaving the Nextel site in place except for radios, hardward, generators and hazardous materials. This sounds much like the previous Nextel decommission project involving Sprint's former contractor, Black Dot Wireless. The one difference is that lease termination notices are not sent prior to receipt of the Md7 letters. Either way, landlords must exercise caution in evaluating the risks of leaving an obsolete cell site on their property.
Since Sprint announced its decommission project last year, Tower Seekers has worked with several Californa landlords to help them understand their options. In some cases, we have negotiated favorable terms as part of a settlement with Sprint. The key to a successful outcome for any landlords faced with lease termination and site decommission is understanding the facts. Sprint's goal is to reduce the cost of shutting down the Nextel sites and eliminate liability.
Cell Site Lease Renewals and Extensions
If you have a cell site lease originally signed prior to 1990, you should expect your tenant to contact you soon to renew or extend the lease. Most leases have a term not to exceed 25 to 30 years so those leases starting in the late 1980s are reaching their expiration date. The oldest leases date back to the mid-80s when the first cell sites were built on leased property.
Some tenants have already been out talking to their landlords about extending even when the lease is not coming up for renewal. See "A Landlord Asks: Should I Accept a Lease Extension Offer". Landlords should exercise care in addressing these making sure to get all the facts before agreeing to an extension. There should also be adequate consideration recevied for long-term extenstions.
When the lease is expiring, the landlord needs to assess its situation. Only through a careful lease review and on-site audit can the fair value of the lease be ascertained. A site visit is required to fully understand and evaluate the landlords strengths and weaknesses in negotiating a lease renewal. Consultants and attorneys representing landlords rarely take the time or have the abiltiy to make the necessary visit to the cell site.
In every lease renewal, we visit our client's site and discuss our findings with the landlord. We carefully review the lease and amendments and make recommendations for action. All this is done FREE OF CHARGE. If the landlord seeks representation, we have all we need to seek the best lease renewal terms.
In California, Tower Seekers clients get the benefit of years of experience plus the unmatched skills of a California licensed telecom/real estate attorney and a California licensed real estate broker.
You Might Need Tower Seekers If....
1. You just got a call or letter saying your property is being considered as a cell tower site. This usually means you are one of several potential candidates. Knowing where you are in the rankings is critical. Understanding who your competition is must also be determined. Tower Seekers will do the diligence to assess your position and bargaining power.
2. You have a representative show up at the site saying they are doing some modifications to the site. Any site modification must be reviewed and compared with the original lease. Many modifications require advance, written approval from the landlord. Some are so extensive they actually change the configuration of the site and should trigger a lease amendment. Lease amendments can be great opportunities to revise lease terms making them more favorable to the landlord. Tower Seekers has worked with many landlords to assess modifications and handle lease amendment negotiations.
3. You get a letter from a company you don't recognize introducing themselves as your tenant. Leases are changing hands faster than ever before. Keeping track of your tenant can be a challenge. Introductory letters may seem harmless but some seek your signature of approval and actually change the terms of the lease. Tower Seekers will read and decipher any letters you get from unfamiliar companies. You will know exactly where you stand before signing anything.
4. You have lease offer and are thinking you can handle it yourself. Vendors representing the cell companies tend to characterize every cell site project as routine. "This is the standard lease agreement" they say. They imply that the process of becoming a cell site landlords is simple, quick and straight forward. To them, this may be true. To the typical cell site landlord (especially churches), the saga is full of twists and turns, questions, delays, and complexity. Keep in mind the tenant has a large team of experts handling each aspect of the process. Tower Seekers will be your advocate to help you make informed decisions and seek fairness during the entire transaction.
5. You are thinking about a lease buyout. The most important question to ask first is "why am I selling now?" Then ask "what am I selling." Tower Seekers can work with you to help answer these questions. If you decide a buyout is right for you, we will represent you and attempt to get the best terms and conditions available. The buyout landscape has changed and become more complex. Buyout company reps will sometimes lead you to believe they are working for you. Be inquisitve. As questions. Pricing and terms are more seller favorable than ever. Tower Seekers knows how to accomplish your goals.
6. You don't have the time or patience to deal with this. Becoming a cell site landlord is time consuming. Meetings, phone calls, emails and more meeting are required to get a cell site deployed. Many of our client chose Tower Seekers mainly for our ability to handle the day-to-day aspects and tee up the decisions for the landlord. Along the way, we are a strong advocate for the landlord.
7. You have no clue what's in your lease or what's going on at your site. Tower Seekers will do a free lease review and site audit so you will know exactly where you stand. We almost always finds opportunities to bring benefit to the landlord. Remember, we said free.