New right to install broadband where landlord unresponsive

Out-Law News | 11 Oct 2019 | 4:32 pm | 1 min. read

Telecoms companies will be given the right to install faster broadband connections in blocks of flats where repeated requests for access from the landlord have gone without response, the UK government has announced.

The new 'interim' right will be implemented by way of changes to the Electronic Communications Code ('the Code') when parliamentary time allows. It could impact up to 3,000 residential properties across the UK every year, according to government estimates.

Digital secretary Nicky Morgan said that new right would ensure people living in rented flats were not "left behind" the government's plan to ensure every home and business in the UK has access to a high-speed 'gigabit-capable' internet connection.

"We're pushing ahead with delivering the digital infrastructure that will underpin the UK's future growth and boost our productivity," she said.

Foo Alicia

Alicia Foo

Partner

The government's claims will need to be met with a commensurate commitment to ensure there is sufficient judicial firepower and resources at the tribunal to meet the potential avalanche of cases on Code rights.

The government consulted on the creation of the new right last year, in response to lobbying from operators. Landlord failure to respond to a request for access is one of the biggest obstacles preventing operators deploying new networks to residential blocks, with as many as 40% of such requests going unanswered, according to the government. The Code already gives operators the right to seek access to premises, but it is a lengthy and costly process.

In its consultation, the government had suggested the interim right be granted by way of a magistrates' court issued warrant of entry, but was persuaded that the correct court should remain the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), and its equivalent in the devolved administrations, where all other applications under the Code are being heard.

However, property disputes expert Alicia Foo of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "The government's claim that the proposed legislation provide operators with what is intended to become a faster, cheaper route to gaining interim rights will need to be met with a commensurate commitment to ensure there is sufficient judicial firepower and resources at the tribunal to meet the potential avalanche of cases on Code rights likely to end up before the tribunal".

"The tribunal is already busying up with its current workload," she said.

The new route will only be available in circumstances where a tenant has requested a service from a telecoms provider that requires landlord permission in order to be delivered, and the landlord has failed to respond to repeated requests from the operator for that access. The right will only be granted for a limited period, expected to be 18 months, to be specified in the legislation; and the landlord will be able to challenge the tribunal's order once granted.

The government intends to set out a "clear process" that operators will be required to follow in order to demonstrate their repeated attempts to engage with the landlord before they will be able to apply for the new right. They will also only have a limited time in which to apply for the right after sending the final notice to the landlord.