A typical scenario you come across with mainly commercial properties is a utility supplier wanting permission to trail cables into the property. It could be for an ever-faster internet or phone line, and it all needs to happen quickly for a new occupier at the premises.
But it could also be for, say, a communal TV-supply to an apartment block, and wanting to beef-up the provision for perhaps a new resident who doesn’t have permission to have a satellite dish outside the property.
In the rush of things and slickness of these providers, it can appear to be a simple sign-the-dotted-line, and they will do the rest. That might well be the case, but the trick of good property management is to make sure all eventualities are covered in case things don’t go to plan, and make everything happen easily so that they end up being right.
So, in an effort to clarify things and know exactly what to do, here are a few general pointers to help out:
1. What is a Wayleave
A wayleave is the popular way to document such services and rights, the focus being an agreement with an owner for possibly an agreed cost and rates either one-off or ongoing. These are designed just for that property interest owner rather than automatically including future ones, unless agreed otherwise.
Rights like easements are more substantial involving legal rights linked to the actual land which will probably affect future interests as well.
Therefore practically, these need to be openly agreed between parties with no direct obligation or format to go by, often under a prescribed format, unless you go down the road of enforcing any statutory rights.
2. The Statutory Rights
Behind the scene there may well be statutory rights that a provider can rely upon to entice a property owner to play ball, often for commercial rather than residential premises.
For example, there is the Electricity Act 1989 and The Electronic Communications Code, and watch out for the government looking to help internet broadband providers implement new lines for faster and better provision.
These can include rights of access, and even though the owner may need to go down these lines there are be some grounds of objection, albeit slim. Any disputes may need to bring in the Secretary of State and even judicial review if even these decisions are deemed wrong.
3. An Easy Agreement
After all the theory and knowing what you can and can’t do, try then to keep things simple in terms of agreeing the end scenario. Even though you may have rights to refuse or insist upon these, the hassle and cost and bad-will this causes may outweigh any sensible agreements.
Ideally it does boil down to an existing agreement to sign up, and just back-up correspondence to outline the detail. You might also be able to share contractors and time frames, although with an understanding of what context they do each part.
4. Research What’s There
Just before ploughing ahead with the supply in question, check out what others already exist.
This can ensure no overlap, and duplicate ones if they already exist and can be re-used. Even if they exist in a previous name, it could be mutually beneficial to look at transferring across.
And think of all kinds as well, whether electricity and gas, pipes and wireless, BT and internet providers (even radio wave technology on roof area).
On one side have a conversation with the owner or previous occupiers to see what’s kicking around, and on the other a formal solicitor’s search with the title and legal pack.
5. Detailed Documentation
As you head to the paperwork, make sure everything is accounted for.
This may be through a formal wayleave agreement which may be prescribed by larger providers or open to re-drafting in others. Watch out though for the costs and delay in doing this outweighing the intended benefit, therefore maybe look at just simple clarification of detailed issues in other correspondence.
Make sure as much detail is in there as possible without overcomplicating things, for example access rights, insurance cover, and repairs and re-instatement. Add photos and plans where possible to help make even clearer for people, and watch out for existing ones needing to be changed to reflect future uses.
Get the basis of payments clarified as well, with rights sometimes to back-date up to 6 years for missed payments.
6. Practical Factors
Getting down to the nitty-gritty is important to understand what exactly is being completed on site and in what sequence. And the sooner the better, to then get this clarified in the original documentation rather than having to mop-up the mess afterwards.
So look at what areas will need access, not just the end destination but all the nooks and crannies, cupboards and stores, and ducting and ceiling voids that cables need to trail through. Check if any additional boxing-in or cutting-out works are needed for this, and who completes these.
Wherever they go, check whether permission is needed, maybe from a landlord for communal cupboards or neighbouring occupiers through their areas.
Then think about time factors as well, including how quickly this all needs to happen for connectivity and whether before any main lease documentation, and also in the future when the occupier leaves or changes and how the facilities are removed or passed on to someone else.
For example, a business with an expensive internet on an annual contract may need to look at removing the services if they vacate whilst still paying for it, unless they can relocate with them to new premises or agree to transfer to a new occupier.
7. Costs & Fees
Costs can soon rack up on something like this from all directions.
There will be direct ones, often through solicitors and building surveyors needing to produce final consents and documentation. Even though these might seem steamy, as long as they are reasonable then they often stick, even if a landlord had to resort to their usual higher-cost solicitors for advice.
The actual installation itself may also incur costs not envisioned at the beginning. So even if the actual supplier claims that their install is at their cost, what about all the little extras like additional works to hide the cables, cleaning up, and even people costs to arrange access? Often the person managing the property gets caught in the middle and should really be reimbursed as well.
8. Resolving Problems
Of course everyone would like things to go well, but problems do occur and need resolving. And ideally sooner rather than later to stop building up further.
On one extreme it may require implementation of rights under statutory protection if you can’t even receive initial permission, on the other just oiling the wheels of negotiations and talks. Often the simple threat of taking further action is enough to clear things up, and watch out for additional costs like mentioned above.
If individual parties are not being reasonable then there may be a way to liaise with others within that business or raise complaints through their accreditation scheme. And even just having a good old-fashioned meeting on site to thrash out the issues and understand the perspectives that everyone is coming from can help jog things along nicely.
Going Way Over the Top With Wayleaves
Don’t be worried about going too far agreeing all this paperwork regarding any such utility or other access. Even though there may be pressure and time restraints to simply get on with and sign the dotted line, going through the above steps will help make sure you get the true picture of what’s happening, while still keeping the momentum of the installation.
This will pay off both now with less hassle and fuss to install, and later if there are any property or occupation changes or hick-ups.
And okay, it will hopefully end in simply signing and agreeing the original agreement anyway, but this de-tour helps cover everyone’s back eventually. And filter down into reduced costs and increased values.
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