August, 2003
From the ASHI President.
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



A Moral Foundation is Basic to the Work We Perform

RICHARD C. MATZEN

When ASHI founders met to consider the creation of a professional society, I believe they had in common the same value system held by our Membership today. It seems both generations believe a moral foundation is basic to the work we perform for our clients. Both serve their clients – protect and inform them as they make a home purchase decision.

Few decisions can have as great an impact on future financial success as does purchasing a home. Choosing the wrong house can result in reverses or can be ruinous. Each of us carries that realization into every home inspection, just as the founders did 27 years ago.

Given this, it comes as no surprise our founders created a written code of ethics that embodied those principles that place the client’s interest above the inspector’s interests. ASHI’s Code of Ethics captured fundamental behaviors that caused the inspector to conduct his practice such that the client could place trust in the inspection process and report.

As the early years of our society unfolded, two of ASHI’s creations became the crown jewels of the home inspection profession. Our Standards of Practice became widely recognized as the definition of a professional home inspection. The ASHI Code of Ethics measured the professional stance and conduct of the professional home inspector.

It is our Standards of Practice and our Code of Ethics that has been the glue that unites the profession nationwide. These two things, taken together, rally professionals to our membership. These two elements of our Society are precious to us; they are hard fought; and they cause us to stand our ground in the field and endure the criticism of others.

In recent years we have seen the collapse of several of America’s big corporations; we’ve seen Wall Street under intense scrutiny; and we’ve watched executives in handcuffs for failing to perform consistently with public trust and our laws.

I’ve been proud to be a part of a profession whose practitioners strive to conduct themselves in accordance with our principles. I find it a source of pride that 27 years ago a simple one-page code of ethics was authored, setting out those principles common to all of us in the simplest terms. Our Code of Ethics taken with our Standards of Practice has coalesced more than 6000 inspectors into pre-eminence in the home inspection profession.

Two years ago we asked the Standards Committee to review the Code of Ethics. The Committee began the examination. This year we recognized that our Standards of Practice and our Code of Ethics were too big for one committee and we created a Code of Ethics Committee.  

The Code of Ethics Committee is in the midst of hearings on a revised code that takes a long look at pressures facing the inspector in the field, societal changes, and a broad range of legal constructs. Please study the new draft intensely, and make an effort to understand both why and how the proposed code has evolved.

Our proposed Code of Ethics defines with a greater specificity those practices in which we are allowed to be engaged. By more specific definitions, we more specifically limit business practices. Our proposed Code of Ethics more specifically describes our relationship with our client and causes the inspector to more strenuously avoid potential conflicts.

These changes will cause us to be sculpted to even a greater degree by our code. These changes will cause us to be more independent in the real estate transaction. These changes will cause a notable part of the inspection profession to be separated from ASHI because of business practices.

Over the last few years, ASHI added a Director of Compliance to staff and ASHI asked our Standards Committee to perform Requests for Interpretation of our Standards and Code. There has been a trend for the responses to requests for interpretations and actions by our CEPP to be restrictive for our Membership.

As we examine our proposed code of ethics, it is my judgement that our Membership demands a disciplined profession with high standards, veracity and autonomy through the real estate transaction. Viewed historically, I imagine that what our founders envisioned for the profession is similar to what the next generation wants for its future.

Our hallmark is a sense of working independently and fiercely for the protection of our clients. Our Code reinforces this. We innately understand our role in real estate and are compelled to the profession as much by our belief in the value of our work as we are compelled to win a livelihood.