Rooftop Lease Rates | 7 Rooftop Cell Site Tips

By Nick G. Foster

May 19, 2014

(article updated on February 10, 2020)

Rooftop Lease Rates Drive Revenue

As a property owner you may want to increase the income of your property. What if you could add additional monthly revenue to your bottom line using your roof? If you are looking for a rooftop tenant, check out our article “How Do I Get A Cell Tower On My Property?”.

Better yet, what if your building already has rooftop cell site tenants. Now the question is how do you ensure you are optimizing your rooftop rents?

We here at Airwave Advisors want to share with you 7 tips to help you optimize your rooftop lease.

1. Have Your Rooftop Cell Site Audited

Ever wonder if your cell tower tenant is breaking the rules of your lease? An industry secret is often they are!

Cell phone companies are under tight deadlines to install new equipment and to upgrade their rooftop cell sites. As a result, they often install equipment without landlord approval.

We think cell phone companies often live by the motto, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”. While some may consider this motto acceptable for a young toddler stealing cookies from the kitchen, it is completely unacceptable in business.

The only way to know for sure if your tenant is in compliance with their lease is to have your site audited.

  • Do you have any doubt that an antenna or piece of equipment is on your property that wasn’t there before?
  • Do you know what is actually on your rooftop?
  • How many antennas are on the roof?
  • How many auxiliary units has each carrier installed on the roof?

Thousands of landlords are in this same boat. The big difference between those landlords that do nothing, and the property owners that take action, is often increased cash flow. If you don’t actually know what is on your roof, you should have your rooftop audited by a cell site expert such as Airwave Advisors.

We have audited many rooftops and we have identified opportunities for building owners to pursue back-rent and future rent moving forward. Airwave Advisors’ site audits often uncover equipment installed outside the leased premises or without your permission. This discovery is catching your tenant “red-handed” in breaking the terms of your lease agreement.

We then notify your tenant of our audit findings and start discussing back-rent and future-rent payments owed to you from your tenant. You receive a back-rent check and increased cash flow moving forward. It’s important to note however, that not every site audit will unveil a tenant in non-compliance with their lease. Some sites are in compliance. The only way to sleep well at night, and to know for sure, is to have a site audit performed.

Equipment quantity, location, and utilities are often not documented correctly in rooftop lease agreements. Have your rooftop lease reviewed and your roof audited today to ensure you are not leaving missing out on money due to you.

2. Increase Rooftop Rents With Tenant Requests

Many rooftop cell site tenants are requesting to upgrade their cell sites. Their requests can often can come in the form of requesting “landlord consent”. They also may describe their project as “maintenance” or say they are swapping out their antennas for “like-for-like”.

These are all buzz words that may sound harmless, however, they are often used to hide opportunities where you can increase rents.

We are working on behalf of our clients, landlords, with all major carriers; AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint Nextel as they upgrade their existing rooftop facilities at an alarming rate. Their scope of work often includes adding additional antennas and equipment that often is proposed to be installed outside the leased Premises.

In addition, many jurisdictions are requiring your cell site tenant to hide their antennas behind screening to create what is known in the industry as a “stealth site” (hidden from the eye of the public).

Have your tenant’s cell site project reviewed by a cell tower lease expert such as Airwave Advisors. You will sleep well at night knowing you have had their project ran by professionals prior to signing off any changes. Making sure you are not leaving any money on the table and you are managing your rooftop appropriately.

3. Understand Your Leverage With Elevation

Rooftops are popular locations for cell sites due to their unique elevation. Often towering over adjacent properties. Hotels or church steeples by example are often the tallest buildings in a given area. Sometimes in areas with very strict development standards.

Understanding the elevation of the building increases the leverage of a building owner’s position in rooftop cell tower lease discussions. Often there not buildings of comparable height nearby.

Now how do you know how hard to push before pushing your tenant away?

All tenants have a pain point in regards to rent and if the rent amount exceeds their paint point they have to walk no matter what.

To get the best deal with the highest rent, but no so high that the tenant walks – it is best to have your negotiation handled by a cell tower lease expert. Airwave Advisors is your expert to help you maximize your rooftop lease today!

4. Engage Rooftop Management to Maximize Cash Flow!

You manage your property’s grounds, lobby, and tenants, but who is policing your rooftop?

The fact is a majority of property owners and managers do not know what is on their roof. This leads to cell phone companies taking advantage and expanding on your roof, often without paying you more rent. Your tenants know the chances are slim someone is policing the roof. As a result they will likely install their equipment wherever they want (often outside their leased premises). They even preform “midnight installs” where they install equipment on your roof at midnight when everyone is gone and asleep (we are not joking).

There could be alot of money sitting on your rooftop, it’s time to check it out.

How Does Ongoing Management Operate?

For ongoing management we listen to you to provide you tailor-made solutions to meet your needs. Would you like us to field calls and e-mails from your tenant? Would you like us to review every plan they submit for upgrades? We are a full services site management solution here for you. We will give you peace of mind and help you sleep at night knowing your cell tower is good hands with professionals.

5. Negotiate Favorable Business Terms

When you lease space to an office or a residential tenant, the square footage is very specific. That approach needs to be applied to rooftop tenants as well. They should only be allowed to occupy a specific footprint on the rooftop. Any expansion beyond that footprint and they should be required to pay you the landlord more money for rent.

6. Establish Construction Hours & Quiet Hours

While this tip doesn’t sound like it would make you additional money, it actually will because it is a safe guard against the potential loss of income. We have heard stories of rooftop tenants using heavy machinery in the middle of the work-day. The loud noise and vibrations only lead to irritate the high-paying office tenant trying to work in the space below. Establish specific hours on when your rooftop tenant can and cannot use heavy machinery. This will make sure your other tenants on the property will not be disturbed when your rooftop tenant is constructing or upgrading their existing site.

7. How Do I Learn More?

Contact us today! We will listen to your needs and help you put in place a strategy that will work best for you.

Have A Rooftop Lease Question?

(888) 443-5101

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Nick Foster Airwave Advisors

About Nick G. Foster

Since founding Airwave Advisors® in 2014, Mr. Foster has added value to over 400 clients ranging from the State of Nevada, City of Beverly Hills, to Habitat For Humanity. Mr. Foster focuses on cell tower lease renewals, buyouts, new lease negotiation, and cell site lease management. Prior to starting Airwave Advisors® Mr. Foster founded and led the Cell Site Services Group within nationwide commercial real estate services leader Cassidy Turley (now known as Cushman & Wakefield).