Selling Land while Maintaining Cell Tower Lease

Many homeowners lease part of their properties to telecommunications companies, for building and maintaining cell sites. But, what happens if you are in this situation and you wish to sell the land under the cell tower? Is there any way to keep the lease and get the benefits from it?

Legal Considerations

Property rights over a specific land area can be subdivided into more specific rights. For instance, there is a right to build, to hold a particular building, to farm or graze, to use the space below or above ground.

Think that your electric, water or gas supply is, probably, not controlled by you, although the cables or pipes run through your property, but by an utility company. And this situation stays the same even if you sell the land. The situation is similar with mineral rights.

So, it all depends on the contract you sign with the buyer.

Possible Solutions

If the legal aspects are clear, although differences may apply from one state to another, how can you make sure that you will keep the rent even after selling the land?

The first one is to subdivide the property. This is the simplest and the most trouble-free way of doing it. You sell most of the estate, except for the very piece of land leased to the telecommunications company (i.e. what lays below the cell tower, along with eventual access areas leased).

Another option is to specify in the contract that you do not sell the right to collect the rent from the telecommunications company. It is your legal right, if the buyer accepts, to keep the rent.

Finally, you can sell the whole land and specify in the contract that you want to lease the area with the cell tower. Then, sublease it to the phone company.

Downsides

No matter which solution you choose, you may encounter some issues.

If you decide to subdivide the land, this might make it harder to find buyers, depending on the location of the leased area. If the area containing the cell tower and access zone is in a part of your property located on the main access route, this might hinder any owner, so people will not be so tempted to buy it.

If you sell the whole property, but keep the lease rights, this might also make many potential clients think twice before buying. And this is not only due to them losing a nice revenue (since the rent might go as high as $1,000 per month), but such a contract might seem rather dubious to them.

Or, if someone agrees to buy the land (either subdivided or without the lease), he will probably pay a much lower price.

In these cases, you will probably find out that your neighbors are the most interested in buying the land. This is because they are the least affected by potential access issues.

Subleasing is useful if you manage to pay much less to the new owner than you get from the company. You should also clearly specify that you have the option to renew the lease later.

Finally, be sure to check out the leasing contract with the phone company. This is because there could be clauses that might hinder you in this action. If changing the status of the land by selling (even if keeping some rights or leasing and subleasing) causes the contract to terminate, you do not have other option than subdividing it.

The bottom line is that selling the land while keeping the lease is possible and there are several ways to do it. Which option is more suitable depends on the contract with the telecommunications company and the ease to find buyers.