January, 2007
Feature
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Focus on Ethics

KEITH OBERG

The ASHI Code of Ethics Committee is charged with developing ethics education and awareness for the ASHI’s membership, and with answering Requests for Interpretation (RFIs) of our Code of Ethics. Two requests made within the last year are published here. The ASHI Code of Ethics does not specifically address the issues explored in the questions; nevertheless, there are general provisions in the Code that apply, such as to avoid activities that might harm the profession in the eyes of the public, and to act in good faith toward inspection clients, are essential in understanding our responsibilities as professionals when deciding what constitutes ethical conduct.

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. Click here to download a PDF of the necessary form.

—Keith A. Oberg, Chair, 2006 ASHI Code of Ethics Committee


Request for interpretation

e060316 Professional Fees

In light of # 1 of the Code of Ethics, "Inspectors shall avoid activities that appear to compromise professional independence," is it acceptable to work in my local area to encourage other inspectors not to use pricing as a competitive tool, but to rely on their professionalism to sell their services? I would not try to set prices, but try to influence others in the profession through educational efforts, such as our chapter magazine, etc.

Response

The provision of the Code addressing professional independence does not really apply to your question. In the context of the Code, professional independence means freedom from the improper influence of the inspector, caused by potential conflicts of interest that could result in a lack of objectivity or inspection integrity.

The Code of Ethics does state "Inspectors shall avoid activities that may harm the public, discredit themselves, or reduce public confidence in the profession." There are many dos and don'ts regarding when and how competitors can generally discuss pricing of services. These guidelines are beyond the purview of the Code of Ethics Committee. An improper discussion can result in substantial penalties. Therefore, unless legal advice is obtained, such discussions are discouraged, despite the best of intentions.  

Request for interpretation

e062903 Reporting a Crime


Do home inspectors have an obligation under the Code to report evidence of a crime, such as a drug operation, to the authorities, if the evidence is uncovered during a home inspection?

Response

While the Code of Ethics does not directly require an inspector to report a crime to law enforcement, there may well be a legal obligation to report evidence of a crime to the appropriate law enforcement agency, depending upon the circumstances. Any determination of such responsibility is beyond the scope of this committee. The Code does direct inspectors to uphold the reputation and practice of the home inspection profession and to act in good faith toward each client and other interested parties. In light of the potential impact of such findings on the parties to the sale and to the public, each inspector should give serious consideration to reporting the crime to the appropriate authorities as a part of his/her civic responsibilities, as well as reporting observations in regard to such activities to his or her client.