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



Discounts to agent-clients

BILL LODEN

The ASHI Code of Ethics Committee is charged with developing ethics education and awareness for ASHI’s membership and answering Requests for Interpretation of our Code of Ethics. Two Requests for Interpretation (RFI) within the last year are presented below. They both address issues involving home inspector relationships with real estate agents. In the first RFI, the question is in regard to discounts to clients, but the more important issue is properly identifying and respecting the interests of the client. The second RFI addresses the conflict of interest that occurs when a family member of the inspector is a real estate agent for the inspected property.  

In each of our monthly Focus on Ethics articles, we present one or more RFIs and the responses developed by the committee since the new Code of Ethics was approved. Our membership is encouraged to submit RFIs to the committee if serious questions about the intent and applicability of the code should arise. The necessary form is available at the ASHI Web site under Downloads/ASHI Forms & Documents.

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

Request for Interpretation
e070824 Discounts to agent-clients

As a marketing tool, can I extend a discount to real estate agents who pay for their clients’ listing inspection?

Response
Offering discounts to clients, whoever they may be, is a part of normal business practice and does not constitute a conflict of interest or a violation of the Code of Ethics. However, when the person paying for the inspection is not the owner or buyer of the inspected property, it is important to remember that the inspector is responsible to “act in good faith toward the client and other interested parties,” per principle 2. in the Code of Ethics. It is recommended that the inspector ensure that the identity of the client is understood by the parties to the sale in order to prevent any misunderstanding regarding the inspector’s responsibility to his or her client, including confidentiality regarding inspection results.

Request for Interpretation
e071023 Inspecting for real estate agent/spouse

Does inspecting a home for which my wife is the buyer’s agent violate the Code of Ethics? She is careful to recommend other inspectors besides me.

Response
The Code of Ethics is clear that to avoid a conflict of interest, “inspectors shall not inspect properties for compensation in which they have, or expect to have, a financial interest.” It is generally accepted that an individual’s financial interest includes immediate family members. The inspection results in this instance could clearly have an impact on the sale of the inspected property and, therefore, have an impact on the financial interest of the inspector in violation of the code. Clients need to know that their interest in an honest and objective inspection is not potentially compromised by possible financial gain on the part of the inspector or his/her immediate family.