December, 2008
Ethics
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Disclosure

BILL LODEN

The ASHI Code of Ethics Committee is charged with developing ethics education and awareness for ASHI members and answering Requests for Interpretation (RFI) of our Code of Ethics. Two requests received by the committee within the last year appear below. The responses are based on the new Code of Ethics, approved in June 2004.

When serious questions arise about the intent and applicability of the revised code, members are encouraged to review previous requests and responses on the ASHI Members Only Web site under Resources. If there has not been a request for an interpretation to a similar situation, please submit your question using the required RFI form, which can be found under Downloads/ASHI Forms & Documents. We will continue to provide the members with the committee’s response to the questions posed by their fellow home inspectors.


— Bill Loden, chair, 2008 ASHI Code of  Ethics Committee



Request for Interpretation

e061102  Disclosure of marketing agreement
Is participation in a marketing program with a real estate broker a violation of the CoE section 1.C., if the real estate broker agrees to disclose to all of its customers the nature of the agreement, including notification that the broker is receiving fees related to their advertising efforts?

Response

Simply disclosing a conflict of interest to a home inspection client is not generally considered to be a sufficient remedy for a conflict of interest to become ethical, because the adequacy of the communication of the conflict of interest could never be assured to be sufficient to properly alert and protect the consumer. The significance of the disclosure easily could be overlooked by the client. 

The primary question here is whether the marketing program is truly advertising or is paid referrals via a listing. If a list of inspectors or any related materials included in a marketing program are titled “preferred home inspectors” or “recommended home inspectors,” or if any promotional materials regarding the list refer to the list in such a manner or similarly, or if there is any agreement to refer participating inspectors, then the program would violate 1.C of the Code, which prohibits paying for referrals.  Further, these “preferred vender lists” can be construed to be in violation of Section 3.A. of the Code of Ethics, which states that advertising shall not be deceptive or misleading.

However, advertising or joint marketing with a real estate firm does not necessarily mean that an inspector is paying for referrals in violation of the Code.  If the list is titled “paid advertisers” or “marketing partners” or in some other fashion clearly indicates that the inspector has paid for this advertising, and no quid pro quo or side agreement to refer those on the list is included, then the program would not be misleading to the public and would appear not to violate either section of the Code.

Request for Interpretation

e070204 Inspection results for report verification
The Code is very clear that “Inspectors shall not disclose inspection results or client information without client approval.” But to further my classification, I was told I have to submit selected inspection reports for ASHI review. I believe if I submit confidential inspection results I will be in violation of the Code of Ethics. Is providing inspection results or client information to anyone (including ASHI) other than the client (and whomever the client approves) a violation of the ASHI Code of Ethics?”

Response

The purpose of the Code provision barring disclosure of inspection results is to protect the interests of the client. The ASHI report verification process does not require disclosure of any client or inspection-site identification. If the inspection report submitted to ASHI has no client- or site-identification information, the interests of the client could not be compromised. The term “inspection results” has no meaning with regard to inspection clients or other parties to a sale unless the document includes identifying names and addresses; therefore, there would be no violation of the Code of Ethics.