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1954 Act continues to wield influence in telecommunications disputes

22nd February 2021

1954 Act continues to wield influence in telecommunications disputes

It was long thought that the ‘new’ Electronic Communications Code would resolve some of the uncertainty around contractual relationships between landowners and telecommunications operators in relation to apparatus placed on land or buildings.

That has been far from the case.

Coming into force as part of the Digital Economy Act 2017 on 28 December 2017, the intention was to provide much-needed certainty regarding the interaction between the Code and the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954.

The Code was expected to resolve the issue where operators were provided with the dual protection of both the Code and the 1954 Act.

However, the highest Courts in England & Wales continue to resolve disputes of this nature.

In the recent case of CTIL v Ashloch and APW [2021] EWCA Civ 90, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Deputy President of the Upper Tribunal and found that:

  • The tribunal has no power to impose rights pursuant to the Code in favour of an operator which is already in occupation of that land under a tenancy granted before the Code came into force on 28 December 2017, where the tenant was “holding over” beyond the contractual expiry date of the lease pursuant to section 24(1) of the 1954 Act.
  • A lease with security of tenure under the 1954 Act can only be renewed or terminated in accordance with the 1954 Act. The operator does not have the right to use Part 4 of the Code to renew its lease.

For a piece of legislation that is now 67 years old, the 1954 Act continues to have plenty of life left in it, even in circumstances where new laws are introduced with the intention of replacing parts of it. It remains to be seen whether the decision in Ashloch reaches the doors of the Supreme Court, however.

As ever in this complex area of law, landowners and operators would be well-advised to seek specialist Property Litigation advice on their position at the earliest possible stage.

 

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