by Annette W.
(Huntingtown, MD)

I have reason to believe that numerous telecom companies have come into my community and have deliberately underpaid and exploited elderly property owners, and have substantially ripped them off.

They have gotten these elderly property owners to accept ridiculously low monthly rent payments -- in exchange for tying up their property for 25 or 30 years.

In the case of my father, they even built a 500+ foot long road on his land because a neighbor who shares a road to our back field refused to grant the telecom company permission to use that road. When the telecom company built that road, it did not compensate my elderly, disabled father -- when I inquired, the telecom company's lawyer told me that building that road on my father's land without paying him a dime was a right-of-way.

My father is elderly and disabled. After 10 years, he is only getting $800+ a month for a cell phone tower in the most lucrative spot in this county -- right off a major highway.

How do I correct this ripoff and other ripoffs of elderly property owners in this community?

By the way, when you talk about rent, the original telecom company that built the cell tower (Sprint) only offered a 15% increase every 5 years -- nothing yearly. Why do I have this bad feeling about this entire situation and about others who've gotten ripped off in southern Maryland?

(A local attorney told me that the adult children of other elderly property owners in Calvert County, MD, have told me that I am not alone and that he's been approched by other adult children, too.)

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Mar 16, 2012
Capitalism happens
by: Steve from Tower Genius

Annette I completely hear your frustration. The reason that we started Tower Genius was that we used to work for the carriers (Sprint, Verizon etc) and saw that the carriers were often times quite heavy handed with property owners. There were not too many places landlords could turn to get assistance.

I would not go as far as saying that people are being "ripped off". Are they being taken advantage of? In some cases yes. Is getting $800 per month a bad thing? No. Could he have done better? Perhaps. Is a 15% escalation in rent every 5 years constitute being ripped off? Certainly not. Could the rent and the escalation be improved. We don't know until we see your lease and can provide you with a comprehensive wireless facilities assessment.

Look, Sprint is a corporation with investors and that has a responsibility towards their shareholders to turn a profit. Sprint wants to keep their costs as low as possible so they can make money, and Sprint hires professionals and rewards them for bringing in the cell tower leases cheaply. Cell tower rent rates are primarily determined by supply and demand. If there is a high supply of properties to rent, the demand for your site is lower, and your rent will not be as high. Since the tower is already built, when the time comes to renegotiate or extend the lease, you will need to determine what Sprint's need (demand) is for your particular tower. Once you know that you can negotiate better terms. That is capitalism.

It may have been the case that when your dad's tower was built, they could have easily leased his property or 10 other competing sites for $500 per month. In many cases the land owner does not have too much leverage. If you push them too hard, the carriers will walk to the property next door or across the street.

That's why we urge people to look at their leases. Even if they have an attorney that they trust, unless they are wireless industry experts, don't expect the lawyer to be able to get you the best deal.

Please call us and let us take a look at your dad's Sprint lease to see what your options are and what your strategy can be for fixing things in the future.

Steve Kazella, CEO
Tower Genius

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