As of October 15, adherence to the ASHI Code of Ethics will be required of anyone who claims to conduct an inspection according to the ASHI Standards of Practice. This and other revisions presented to ASHI’s Voting Members were overwhelmingly approved in March. Of the 3,444 ballots distributed to voting Members, 1,316 were returned, exceeding the requirement for 30 percent participation. The tally was 1,217 for the revisions and 99 against. The revised Standards of Practice will go into effect October 15, 2006, and printed copies will be available through the ASHI store in July. The membership can view the revisions on the ASHI Extranet in the Publications section.
In addition to linking the Code of Ethics to the Standards of Practice, significant changes were made to Sections 2.2.A, 2.2.C.1, and the Glossary. These improvements began in 2001 when proposed changes did not receive the needed quorum. Using those revisions as a base, the Standards of Practice Committee conducted public hearings and solicited input from the Ethics Committee and the Strategic Planning and Advocacy Task Forces.
The revisions approved this year were presented to voting Members, accompanied by an extensive rationale statement from the 2005 Standards Committee members Matt Bradfeldt, Bill Coull, Mark Cramer, David Goldstein, Roger Hankey, Roger Robinson, Warren Tucker and JD Grewell, committee chair.
Why link Standards and Code?
Even though a decade of work had gone into revising the ASHI Code of Ethics, the committee noted that non-members claiming to abide by the Standards of Practice often failed to incorporate similar ethics into their business practices. In an effort to promote elevated ethical expectations and improve the industry as a whole, it was proposed that the ASHI Code of Ethics be part of, and referenced in, the Standards of Practice. Thereby, those who claim to abide by the Standards will be promising to comply with the Code.
Because the ASHI Membership already is committed to both, only non-members are impacted by this change. The goal of the change is to either force a significant improvement in any company referencing the ASHI Standards and Code, or the removal of the ASHI reference in the company’s published material.
Non-members who claim to adhere to ASHI Standards of Practice pay no dues, have no vote on changes and, most likely have never read it or have followed it only in the broadest terms. The claim is used as a defensive measure and to create an illusion in the minds of the home- buying public that the non-member is equal to an ASHI Member. Those who claim to adhere to the Standards of Practice don’t mention the ASHI Code of Ethics. While ASHI may not be able to control who claims to follow the ASHI Standards of Practice, at least ASHI can promote ethical business practices by those who so claim.
While it can be argued that the conjoining of the two may reduce the acceptance of the Standards of Practice for licensing needs, most states have not adopted the Standards of Practice in total, with ASHI referenced as the governing body. Most states have made modest changes before adopting the Standards as their own; therefore, this revision should not lessen the likelihood states will look to ASHI for model standards.
Code presented with Standards in ’78
At ASHI’s first convention, members agreed that developing standards was a priority. The following year, John J. Heyn, the chair of ASHI’s first Standards Committee, presented the proposed Standards at the Society’s second convention. The Code of Ethics was included in the 97-page document and the topic of moral obligation was prominent in the cover letter. Although the Standards have been revised several times since those accepted in 1978, what Heyn said in that cover letter remains relevant as the Society moves forward with the most recent revision.
Hynes introduced his committee members: Alfred Alk, Kenneth T. Austin, Tomas M. Byrne, John F. Dempsey, Jack Goldring, Philip C. Monahon, Paul O’Connor, Ronald J. Passaro and Claxton Walker, thanked them for attending the monthly Saturday meetings in New York City for the past year, and cited their combined 75 years of home inspection experience in what was then a fledgling profession.
In part, he wrote, “Throughout all of our meetings, we sought to develop Standards that would be morally, professionally, technically and legally correct.
“Morally, home inspectors carry a major responsibility in advising the homebuying public on their largest financial commitment. As part of our moral responsibility in this endeavor, we wanted the Standards to reflect our complete professional integrity and honesty in our services to the public.
“Professionally, we wanted the public to know that we are professional men, not tradesmen or mechanics. Therefore, we will conduct our inspections in a professional manner as prescribed by The Standards.
“Technically, we wanted the Standards to identify those important comments that can be realistically inspected and evaluated within a reasonable economic time frame of inspection.
“Legally, we know that some of the public are not always ethically bound in their dealings with us, which shows itself in their unfair and costly law suits against home inspectors. Therefore, we considered legal ramifications in developing the Standards. We expect that the Standards with their ‘Special Situations’ should provide us with some degree of legal protection against unfair and unjust claims.
“…Hopefully, the basic framework and format of the Standards, and the Standards themselves, will prove to be successful for their intended use by professional home inspectors across the country. The Standards Committee will continue to meet under a new Chairman in 1979 and thereafter to review and revise the Standards, as deemed necessary, in order to maintain the high degree of respect that our profession now commands.”