One of the recent questions we have been getting quite frequently is whether it makes sense to modify an existing lease to a Consumer Price Index (CPI) based escalation rate. This is because a few of the tower companies, including Crown Castle are actively looking to change their existing leases to a CPI based escalation due to changes in how they are required to report expenses over time related to a lease.
To help make sense of this issue, it is important to start with what CPI has done over the last 10 years. Please see the chart below. This is based upon the Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (yes- there are multiple versions of CPI that can impact your actual escalation from year to year positively or negatively).
You will see that over the last 10 or so years, CPI escalation has ranged from a high of 4.08% to a low of 0.09% with an average of 2.38%. It is not difficult to see then that if you have a fixed based escalation in your lease that is greater than 2.38%, it might be detrimental to agree to a CPI based escalation. Clearly, CPI fluctuates and could go higher or lower. But based upon the last 12 years, many landowners will not be better off going to a CPI based esclation rate as compared to a fixed escalation rate.
To further complicate matters, the tower companies are placing ceilings on the escalation rates so that even if CPI is greater than a certain percentage rate, that you will only receive that rate. This is ridiculous. If you are willing to risk your escalation on what happens with CPI- you should receive the reward as well if the CPI is higher than average.
In short, we see little reason why a landowner would agree to amend their lease to reflect a CPI based escalation unless they are confident that CPI will be higher over time than their current lease escalation. Even then, the landowner should understand what they are giving up in the amended lease before agreeing. This could include the right to share in revenue from the tower, the right to an increased base lease rate, and/or the right to landowner friendly terms.
If you are contacted to modify your lease, please don’t hesitate to contact Steel in the Air, Inc. for more help.