AT&T Mistakenly Reduces Cell Phone Tower Lease Rent

AT&T (previously Cingular), through a lease optimization firm (either BlackDot or Md7), contacts a landowner with a cell phone tower lease with AT&T and requests that the owner reduce their rent. The landowner tells AT&T that they won’t reduce the rent and does not agree to the proposed amendment to the cell phone tower lease. AT&T reduces the rent checks anyway.

The landowner calls AT&T via their landowner hotline and gets no response. The landowner sends a letter to AT&T- no response. The landowner retains an attorney and files suit for breach of lease- and AT&T finally responds through outside counsel alleging that it was a mistake. That this particular tower is very important to them and that they don’t want to lose it.

Was it a mistake that the landowner did not get called back? Was it a mistake when AT&T failed to respond to the letter? In this case, it appears that the mistake was not a mistake until the landowner filed a lawsuit and AT&T was faced with possible termination of their cell phone tower lease. We have received calls/emails from AT&T or Cingular landowners who called the 1-800 landowner hotline which suggested that they leave a message to receive a return call- but never received one.

We don’t know if AT&T chose not to answer the hotline or return calls because they received too many calls and could not handle them or if they simply felt that it would undermine the effectiveness of the lease optimization project if landowners could actually talk to AT&T reps directly. Perhaps AT&T was simply too involved in its merger mania of late to concentrate on these issues. (for a hilarious history of the regulation and deregulation of AT&T – see http://consumerist.com/consumer/colbert/stephen-colbert-explains-the-cingularattbellsouth-merger-229357.php?mail2=true) It is entirely possible that the landowners who contacted us were not representative and that other landowners did in fact reach AT&T. We have not heard of this particular mistake of reducing rent without an amendment occuring on other cell phone tower sites.

We have been contacted and retained by some landowner who had their cell phone tower lease terminated by AT&T/Cingular, only to be contacted again by Cingular who alleged that the termination was a mistake. In those situations- it became a mistake when Cingular determined that if they bundled their terminated cell phone towers together and included even the empty ones- that someone was bound to buy them. (See our last post for more details on that.)

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