Monday, March 14, 2016

To Have

We are currently in the process of negotiating a lease agreement with a company that plans to build a cell tower on the far corner of our land, near the highway. I hired a land use attorney to help negotiate fair terms and have stayed engaged in the dialogue between the attorney and the representative of the cell tower company. It has become clear, over the (months long) course of negotiations that what the cell tower companies present to landowners initially as a proffered lease is an incredibly stilted set of terms that will operate in favor of the company and subject the landowner to ridiculous liability in the event of any problems. But apparently a lot of landowners hear that they'll get a check every month from the company as soon as they start building the tower, and just sign on the dotted line without challenging any of the terms. (It *is* a pretty sweet deal; you get paid monthly for doing a whole lot of nothing).

I found it intriguing, too, how we were able to work out some more favorable terms. For certain (really stilted) clauses in the lease, the cell tower company actually had stock alternative clauses that were much more fair and which they were willing to substitute, no questions asked, as soon as we inquired. But we had to ask.

Seeing how these companies operate makes me feel so awful for people who don't know better than to just sign these leases without protecting themselves. And it also made me think about the way that business and legal transactions are often designed to punish those who are uneducated or lack the means to decipher and challenge the potential outcomes of what is being offered. Unless you know how to ask the right questions (or hire someone who does), you get the worst possible terms. Our system gives more to those who already have much and takes away from those who already lack. 

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