Landlords of commercial property will not be able to exploit businesses in the North West through unfair or unclear service charges from April.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has launched service charges in commercial property to make sure business tenants in the region gain access to transparent, upfront and fair costs for the maintenance and upkeep of their property, and that any charges incurred are in accordance with the terms of the occupational lease.

The requirements also call for any potential or future changes to service costs to be made clear and obvious to tenants at the outset, and that any costs not specifically mentioned in a lease will not be recoverable from the tenant.

It also provides guidance on more technical matters, including the way in which service charge monies should be held within bank accounts. All regulated firms must comply with the new requirements in the professional statement as of April 1.

The institution has worked with major property bodies representing owners, occupiers and managing agents and the Law Society.

Paul Bagust, the institute's global property standards director, said: "It offers best practice on ensuring occupiers are given clear and concise information on all of the service charges they can expect to pay up front. It will help to better protect both landlords and tenants by avoiding costly – and often devastating – disputes over what can be a substantial business overhead.”