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Cell Towers


Why Hire a Cell Tower Attorney?

The short answer is to level the playing field. Cell companies negotiate tower leases every day. Companies that purchase leases and future leasing rights do so every day. Property owners, including municipalities, business owners, and even individuals, need someone equally experienced on their side so they don't leave money (sometimes lots of it) on the table and get stuck with poor terms for the entire 30 to 50 year life of a lease or sale of future leasing rights.

For more information, please contact either your Varnum attorney, or John Pestle at 616/336-6725 or

Selling Cell Leases and Future Leasing Rights

A cell tower attorney can help in several ways.

First, we help you decide whether to sell. A clear situation where this applies is if you're going to sell the property where the cell site is located. That's because the funds from the cell sale usually add dollar for dollar to the sales price of the underlying property. We can help identify situations where complications make a sale difficult or impossible.

Second, we help you get the best price and basic terms, usually by venturing out to bid to the companies that buy cell leases. We've done many RFP's or bid requests that put your lease and location in a good light. We attach all the information that a bidder needs to put in a bid and contains key terms that you will want in the final sale documents. We also possess a list of likely bidders while you typically handle the actual bid process.

Third, we draft the documents to accomplish the sale, typically a 15-20 page easement plus an option or purchase agreement. These are complex documents yet standard drafts from purchasers are very one-sided and "make the tail wag the dog." In other words, these standard drafts make the purchaser's use of a small cell site the dominant use of all of your property, and your own use becomes secondary. This means that you’re stuck if in the future their cell site is in your way.

We've represented clients on the sale of over 70 cell leases and future leasing rights to companies such as American Tower, Crown Castle, SBA Communications, Unison, Tri-Star Investors and Landmark Dividend. See our blog for more information on selling cell leases.

Here are few examples of how a cell tower attorney can help:

  • Increase the rent: The attorney can help the property owner get rent from the second, third, etc. provider to put antennas on the tower, which can double or triple the initial rent.
  • Tower built as planned: The attorney can make sure the lease requires the tower to be built according to the plans the property owner has approved, and allows changes only with the owner's approval. By contrast, leases from providers typically state that plans are only "illustrative" and the company can make any changes it wants.
  • Preserve property rights: Leases often try to prevent a property owner from developing its land near the tower, expanding nearby buildings, etc. An attorney can help preserve the owner's right to develop and expand the use of its property and buildings.
  • If the tower falls: With an attorney, the lease will better protect the property owner if the tower falls, someone is hurt or other incidents occur. Examples include: insurance clauses geared to providing meaningful protection for the full term of a 50-year lease, protections in case the tenant goes bankrupt, default and eviction clauses, etc. Remember: the property owner's name is on the deed, even when things go wrong.
  • Antennas on buildings: Leases for antennas on buildings or other structures are much more complicated to ensure that the principal use of the building is not compromised, its expansion limited or maintenance/other costs increased. This is particularly true for antennas on public infrastructure sites, such as water towers or police radio towers. A cell tower attorney with experience in such matters can help make sure the property owner is appropriately protected.

Model Leases Available

You may purchase a model cell tower and WiMAX lease which have been drafted from the property owner's perspective and assist property owners (including municipalities, business owners and individuals) and their attorneys. These leases are generalized versions which have been signed and negotiated in recent years, and contain provisions which can effectively double or triple the rent the property owner receives. Click here for more information about how to order a model cell tower lease.

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