Adoption of cross industry code, planned for early 2010, will mean industry gets clean bill of health

Housebuilders are to be forced to sign up to a code of conduct for dealing with customer complaints after a probe by the Office of Fair Trading.

It is understood that the competition watchdog’s year-long inquiry into the housing industry, which is due to be published on 25 September, will otherwise give the industry a clean bill of health.

The OFT launched the “market study” last summer to investigate the cause of continuing low customer satisfaction levels, and the industry’s failure to match the demand for housing with supply.

In June, the OFT published a preliminary investigation that seemed to clear the industry of hoarding land to drive up prices. Now sources suggest the final report will find that the industry is not to blame for stubbornly low customer satisfaction.

The NHBC started to work on a code of conduct last November in response to fears that the OFT would impose an external regulator on the industry. The watchdog is now set to endorse this code, which is likely to be policed by an independent company and financed by the industry.

One housing industry source said: “The hope is that the code can be introduced in early 2010. There is now a year to get the contractual details in place.

“Overall, it is a good outcome for the industry – the OFT looked at the disputes and decided harm to customers was negligible.

This year’s industry customer satisfaction survey showed that 75% of buyers were happy with the quality of their new home, a figure unchanged in the past three years.

• Private homes starts fell by 80% to just 3,260, between August 2007 and August 2008, according to the latest NHBC figures.