February, 2019

Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors


Are These Violations of the ASHI Code of Ethics?

JAMISON BROWN

Five Related Questions:

  1. Is an ASHI Member defined as an individual or an entity, such as a home inspection company?
  2. Is an ASHI member in violation of the Code of Ethics (Code) if he or she participates in a real estate firm’s inspector referral program that includes payment of fees or other arrangements detrimental to the inspector’s clients?
  3. Is an ASHI member in violation of the Code if he or she (as an employee) performs an inspection under the direction of an employer that participates in a firm’s inspector referral program?
  4. As an individual, is an ASHI member responsible for avoiding association with an enterprise or an employer that directly or indirectly offers allowances, such as those required to participate in a real estate firm’s inspector referral program?
  5. Is an ASHI member who is employed by an enterprise that participates in a real estate firm’s inspector referral program in violation of the Code by indirectly offering allowances (by working for an employer that pays allowances) in connection with or arising from the ASHI Standard of Practice (SoP), this requested interpretation or both?

Interpretations by the ASHI Code of Ethics Committee: 

Question 1: The ASHI Code of Ethics Committee cannot provide an answer to Question 1 because ASHI membership is not defined or addressed in the ASHI Code or the ASHI SoP. Section 2.1 of the ASHI Bylaws and Chapter 16 of the ASHI Policy and Procedure Manual may provide guidance.

Question 2: Yes, this is a violation of the Code (https://www.homeinspector.org/Code-of-Ethics). Payments to a real estate firm or any other quid pro quo arrangements to participate in a referral program violate various Code provisions.

Question 3, 4 and 5: In general, the types of activities noted in Questions 3, 4 and 5 are frowned upon. Refer to the fifth sentence of the ASHI Code, which states that members “shall avoid association with any enterprise whose practices violate this Code, and shall strive to uphold, maintain, and improve the integrity, reputation, and practice of the home inspection profession.” However, ASHI policy provides that an employee’s individual responsibility, if any, is judged on a case-by-case basis and the specific facts of a given situation.



Question:
Is it a violation of the Code for an inspector to pay for advertising on a privately owned moving truck if the owner of the truck is also a real estate agent who advertises his own business, along with several other businesses (for example, a pizza shop, a sub shop, a bank, a mortgage broker), on the moving truck. The agreement to advertise would be with the owner of the truck (as an individual), not as a representative of the real estate company.

Interpretation by the ASHI Code of Ethics Committee: The Code of Ethics allows advertising; however, any advertisement, regardless of who owns or controls the advertising media, would be a violation if it is deceptive or if it involves referrals or endorsements by an entity that has conflicting interests with home inspectors’ clients, such as a real estate agent.

Also, any advertisement, regardless of who owns or controls the advertising media, would be a violation if it involves paying for an “approved” or “preferred” listing or involves any quid pro quo between the home inspector and an entity that has conflicting interests with home inspectors’ clients, such as a real estate agent. Whether or not such violations exist in this example is not clear from the wording of the question.



Question:
Is there any ethical problem in including written repair or replacement estimates in inspection reports?

Interpretation by the ASHI Code of Ethics Committee: Including written repair or replacement estimates in inspection reports does not violate the Code of Ethics. The Code states that “inspectors shall not repair, replace, or upgrade, for compensation, systems or components covered by ASHI Standard of Practice. ...” However, this does not preclude an inspector from providing projected costs for repairs, which could help clients gain a sense of the financial impact of a defect, as long as providing such additional information falls within the inspector’s area of expertise, per Section 2.A of the Code, and as long as the estimate does not constitute an offer to perform the work. It is important to note that some states have restrictions on the type and nature of projected costs that an inspector may provide.


Jamison Brown is the owner of Home Inspections by Jamison & Company, Poquoson, VA. Before becoming an ASHI member in 1988, Jamison was a project manager, and supervised the construction and remodeling of more than 10,000 housing units for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Jamison is a former member of the Carpenters and Joiners of America and a former licensed plumber in the state of Virginia. He is a member of the International Code Council, International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) and a certified member of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). He has been a member of ASHI’s Technical and Membership Committees, and was chair of the CEPP Committee. Currently, he chairs the ASHI Code of Ethics Committee. Jamison has personally inspected more than 18,000 residential and commercial properties. Contact him at jamison.brown@gmail.com.