Is it ethical for a home inspector who conducted a structural pest inspection on a home to then perform structural pest repair work on the same home, assuming the inspector is representing separate companies?
Interpretation by ASHI Code of Ethics Committee:
The ASHI Code of Ethics (CoE) states in item six, “The member will promptly disclose to the client any interest in a business which may affect the client. The member will not allow an interest in any business to affect the quality or results of their inspection work which they may be called upon to perform. The inspection work may not be used as a vehicle by the inspector to deliberately obtain work in another field.”
The ASHI Standards Committee reviews the CoE in relation to the potential for conflicts of interest in areas involving ancillary services or fee-paid services beyond the home inspection. Among these ancillary services are pest control inspections.
ASHI has long recognized that qualified members can offer these ancillary services to a home inspection without violating the CoE. Although inspecting for wood-destroying organisms and other inspection or consultation activities are allowable activities for qualified ASHI members, the potential for conflict enters the equation when the same inspector, or the firm with which he or she is associated, goes beyond the inspection and offers or performs remediation, extermination, repairs or alterations.
The CoE states that “members shall avoid association with any enterprise of questionable character, or apparent conflict of interest.” This does not say a blatant or an immediate or a real conflict, but simply an apparent one. Of course, a real conflict of interest is a violation, but an apparent conflict of interest also should be avoided. The appearance of a conflict is sufficient to create doubt. The prohibition against apparent conflict of interest has been established to avoid the temptation to make—or to create the suspicion of having made—an intentional misstatement concerning a given condition in hopes of eliciting additional work.
The findings and recommendations of an ASHI home inspector are too important to be clouded with this suspicion. This is why any ASHI member performing additional, for-profit services as described here would be in violation of the ASHI Code of Ethics.
The distinguishing aspect is that these activities (that is, corrective measures such as remediation, extermination, repairs or alterations) that provide for additional compensation (beyond the inspection fee) normally require a separate contract and are no longer ancillary services. Any work or service requiring a home improvement contract or a special permit is for-profit work that violates the intent of the CoE. These works or services should be performed only by properly licensed firms working under an appropriate contract.
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 over 18,000 residential and commercial properties. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this and future issues of the Reporter, ASHI’s Ethics Committee will address dilemmas faced by home inspectors.