What are the different types of cell tower lease easements?

When a landowner gets multiple offers for the same lease(s) at roughly the same amount, they often have to make the difficult choice between the offers without knowing much information upon which to make the decision. Each company’s salespeople will make claims about how their offer is different from the others. They will use terms like expanded easement, specific easement, and/or assignment. Here is what they mean:

Specific Easement or Assignment: Under a specific easement, you are only selling the rights to the current lease footprint as described in your lease agreement. Thus, if the lease specifies that the lease area is for 10′x20′, you would only be selling the rights to that 10′x20′.

General Easement: Typically, a general easement only applies in the cases of rooftops. A general easement means that the buyout company takes the rights to the entire rooftop whether or not the wireless leases take up the entire rooftop area. The buyout companies prefer general easements because they get the right to future income in the event that other wireless companies need to rent your rooftop. The buyout company will often offer to give some percentage of the revenue to you from future tenants.

Expanded Easement: An expanded easement means that the buyout company not only buys the current lease footprint but also additional defined area. For example, the lease buyout company may acquire the same 10′x20′ lease area described above under Specific Easement, but would also acquire an additional 10′x10′ next to that lease area. They do this to control future tenants that come to the property or procure the revenue should your existing tenant need to expand beyond their lease footprint.

In general, lease buyout companies typically pay slightly more for general and expanded easements as compared to specific easements. As part of their marketing pitch, they often make outlandish and unsupported claims about how much revenue the landowner will likely get from granting the expanded or general easements. These claims may suggest that there is more money in the future from future tenants than from the current tenant. They will even try to show the future revenue as an additional benefit of their offer. In many cases, it may not make sense to sell anything other than a specific easement. In other cases, it doesn’t matter at all. We can help you determine what type of deal format is in your best interest including ones that the buyout companies won’t offer unless you ask them specifically.