Why A Cell Tower Lease Is Not A Partnership

By Nick G. Foster
October 8, 2018

There Are Dozens Of Cell Tower Sals

Too often when I am on a call with cell tower companies I hear the word “partnership“. Usually it is attached to a statement about revenue sharing, or how long the cell tower lease agreement is. Really the word “partnership” is simply sales rhetoric. In fact if we review the template language of a typical cell tower lease agreement, there is nothing “partnership” about it – not even close.

On a recent call I had with a mid-size tower company one of the principles who we will call Cell Tower Sal was getting a bit too slippery for me. He stated, “We view our landlords as long-time partners”.

**stop the post*** 

(Is there a sickness bag on this flight?)

I replied,  “Sal, then why do you require your consent for the landlord to sell the lease, assignment language allowing you to assign the agreement without landlord consent, and the ability to terminate the agreement in 30 days, but the landlord cannot terminate for 50 years? Is that how you treat your partners?”

In response, Sal got frustrated and went silent.

I continued, “What if the landlord had a medical emergency and needed to sell his lease immediately to raise money for medical bills, however, you have language in the agreement that states the landlord cannot sell the lease without your consent. Is that a fair partnership? It sounds like you have 100% control of the landlord’s ability to cash out of the agreement”.

Take little value in what is presented to you verbally by the cell tower company representative. All that matters is the written word – the cell tower lease agreement.

After the signing of the cell tower lease, it is unlikely you will hear from your “partner” again. They will move on to either sell the next lease to the next landlord, sell your lease to another company, or focus their efforts on opportunities that will make them more money. Don’t hold your breath, you will not be receiving a Happy Holidays card from Cell Tower Sal this season.

The Bottom Line

Real estate lease agreements have and always will be a landlord tenant relationship. There is no partnership. There is an exchange of consideration (money/rent) to occupy space on the landlord’s property for a specified period of time. It is as simple as that. Anytime Cell Tower Sal goes beyond that, red flags should be raised, sirens should go off, and you should give Airwave Advisors a call to verify what Cell Tower Sal is saying is true and accurate.


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