Aside from the headlines, generated by a huge cash injection for the NHS and slashed business rates for toilets, another sneaky insertion in the chancellor’s budget flew under the radar for many landlords. This one concerns fibre-optic broadband.
Installing a Fibre-optic Network by 2033
The government has made a commitment to improving the nation’s internet connection. It wants everyone to have access to fibre-optic broadband by 2033. Given the lack of infrastructure, it’s a big undertaking, but another one of the things slowing telecommunications providers down is the difficulties they might face gaining access to rental properties.
One of the proposals included in the Philip Hammond’s budget was a measure to force landlords to allow access to their properties so telecoms companies can install equipment. If a request for access is ignored or denied, temporary access orders could be obtained from a magistrate’s court.
Landlords Ignore Access Requests
Research by telecoms companies shows that up to 40% of requests for access are ignored, especially in blocks of flats. One telecoms company claimed that 96% of access requests were ignored in one city. Whilst some of the access reports are ignored because the properties are owned by overseas landlords or corporate investors, there are many more landlords who just don’t want to grant access.
Telecoms companies can put in a request to the Land Chamber of the Upper Tribunal to get access, but this takes months to process and if thousands of requests were submitted at once, the tribunal would fall apart.
The chancellor’s proposal puts the onus on landlords to facilitate access when they receive a request from a telecoms company. If they don’t grant access – or ignore it – the telecoms company can then apply for a warrant of entry.
Such powers are already in place for gas, electric, and water companies, so they have been proven to work.