Telecommunications companies have broad statutory powers to enter land to inspect, install and maintain telecommunication infrastructure and equipment, such as phone and internet network structures. These statutory powers are intended to make it easier for carriers to provide necessary telecommunications services to Australians.
Recently, we have seen an increase in bodies corporate being issued with a notice stating that a carrier is either going to inspect the scheme land or install facilities on the land, without the need for consent by the body corporate.
While it is true that telecommunications companies have broad powers under the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) (Act) and the Telecommunications Code of Practice 2018 (Cth) (Code), there are some important things bodies corporate should know if they receive a ‘Land Access and Activity Notice’ (LAAN).
The Land Access Process
Firstly, a telecommunications carrier will give the body corporate a LAAN stating that the carrier intends to enter the land to inspect it or to install a ‘low impact facility’. Whether the intended infrastructure is a ‘low impact facility’ is determined by the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 2018 (Cth).
The Land Access and Activity Notice is required to set out:
- the purpose of the proposed activities
- the activities the carrier expects to perform
- the dates on which the carrier is proposing to conduct the activities
- that compensation may be payable for any financial loss or damage in relation to the property as a result of the activities
- how an objection can be made to the proposed activities.
If the LAAN does not detail these matters, it may not be valid. The LAAN must also be given to the body corporate at least 10 business days before the proposed start date.
It’s important to note that if the Land Access and Activity Notice is valid and no objection is made (see below) the carrier can enter the land for the purposes set out in the LAAN. No consent from the body corporate is required.
The body corporate can object to the proposed activities, but only on specific grounds. There are strict timeframes to object – if not done within time, the carrier can proceed with the installation or inspection as proposed.
If the body corporate provides its objection within the required timeframe, the body corporate and the telecommunications carrier have 20 business days to try to resolve the objection. This might involve the carrier making changes to the proposed activities to address the objection.
If no resolution can be reached within a specific time period, the body corporate can refer its objection to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to make a decision. There may be a right to appeal that decision to the Federal Court in certain circumstances.
Depending on the body corporate’s view of the activities being proposed, it might try to negotiate an outcome with the carrier rather than making an objection and following that process. For example, it might accept payment of an appropriate compensation package, or agree to enter into a lease or license with the carrier.
If a valid Land Access and Activity Notice is issued to a body corporate and no objection is made within the required timeframe, the carrier can enter the land to carry out the activities in the LAAN (such as the installation of infrastructure or equipment), without seeking consent from the body corporate.
The timeframes to challenge a LAAN are strict, so it’s vital that a body corporate seeks advice about its rights as soon as it receives a LAAN.
If you have received a Land Access and Activity Notice and need advice, please contact our Strata team today.
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