RICS has set up an independent evaluation service to help ease tensions between commercial landlords and tenants during Covid-19.

The service, launched in response to the government’s voluntary code of practice for landlords and tenants, is designed to ensure “clear, balanced dialogue” between parties during payment negotiations.

In its role as a third-party mediator, RICS’s service will analyse the tenant’s grounds for non-payment, and the landlord’s prerequisites for making concessions.

The process requires a “tight timetable and clear structure for evidence” to be presented and examined by a RICS-appointed independent evaluator.

The service also sets out a clear and affordable schedule of fees for both small and large properties, while matching costs to the size of the dispute.

Evaluators will aim to provide a resolution within 28 days.

Ultimately the product sets out to give tenants a “safe space to articulate their difficulties”, as well as ensuring that landlords have a “rigorous” dispute resolution process so that all parties can maintain a positive working relationship after the crisis.

John Fletcher, director of dispute resolution at RICS, said: “We hope that this service will contribute to the recovery of a fully functioning commercial market as the sector navigates this difficult time period, and will provide landlords and tenants with the inclusive and safe space they need to work out how to resolve any disputes.

“RICS recognises that parties need a safe, unbiased pair of hands, appointed and overseen by a manifestly independent institution to guide them through these unprecedented times.”

Steph Yates, senior consultant at Remit Consulting, said: “While the pandemic was something no one expected, the fallout over non-payment of rents is leading to a fractious breakdown of some landlord and tenant relationships, which will have long-lasting impacts on the sector, investments and the economy.”

Yates cited estimates that £1.5bn of rental income was lost to the UK’s property industry during the March quarter alone, and highlighted the impact this will have on the wider economy.

She said: “The introduction of RICS’s Commercial Rental Independent Evaluation Service is a means to resolve these outstanding disputes in a cost-effective and timely manner. The sooner landlords and tenants can agree terms, the sooner we will see a semblance of normality return to commercial property.”