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



Focus on Ethics

KEITH OBERG

A Review of the Brinks Inspection Service Warranty Program

The Code of Ethics Committee previously evaluated the Brinks Inspection Service Warranty Program and found no direct conflict with the ASHI Code of Ethics as the program was presented. This evaluation by the committee has resulted in some controversy, as a number of ASHI members have expressed their belief that the program violates ASHI’s Code of Ethics. To address the concerns of these ASHI members, the committee reviewed the program again. While the committee reaffirms its earlier opinion, the Brinks program does include several provisions that could result in a conflict of interest, or may be possible violations of the ASHI Code of Ethics, if not properly addressed. The committee noted these concerns at the time of the original evaluation, and, while not a part of the its formal responsibilities, it also noted some potential liability concerns for inspectors participating in the program.

Because of these issues, the ASHI Code of Ethics Committee highly recommends that home inspectors who participate in the Brinks Inspection Program read the following and act accordingly.

To summarize the recommendations from the findings, any home inspector who participates in the Brinks program MUST OBTAIN THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF HIS/HER CLIENT BEFORE THE CLIENT IS REFERRED TO THE BRINKS PROGRAM.

At minimum, a consent form to be signed by the client should include the following disclosures:

1. Confidential information regarding the client, such as contact information, will be released to Brinks.

2. Brinks sells home services and may make multiple sales calls to the client.

3. The warranty is limited in scope and should be read carefully by the consumer.

4. The warranty is being provided by Brinks. The inspector has no responsibility or obligation for the program, or the warranty, and all questions should be directed to Brinks.

Review Findings

In 2005, the Code of Ethics Committee evaluated the proposed inspection program offered by Brinks Home Security, Inc. The program offers to provide the homebuying inspection client with a free home warranty from American Home Warranty Company, paid for by Brinks, if the participating home inspector schedules an inspection, by a Brinks representative, of any alarm system that exists in the home, or if the inspector leaves a Brinks brochure at the inspec-tion site if no alarm system exists on the premises at the time of inspection.

No compensation is given to the inspector for setting up this Brinks inspection, but participation would make this service and the warranty available to the inspection client. We found no violation of the present Code of Ethics in the proposal as outlined in the forwarded document titled Brinks Home Security, Inc. National Inspections Program. 

In the opinion of the committee, the home warranty being offered by the Brinks program was a direct benefit to the inspection client, rather than to the inspector, and did not constitute compensation to the inspector for a recommendation of the company’s services to the client per 1.E of the Code.

Secondly, the requirement in the Brinks proposal for authorization from the client was consistent with 2.C of the Code requiring client approval in order to disclose client information.

However, there were several concerns that were expressed by the committee regarding this program, or that have come to light since approval, that any participating home inspector should be aware of, and act upon, if he or she is to protect the interests of the inspection client and ensure compliance with the Code of Ethics.

It would appear from further information provided by Brinks in its promotional materials that the requirement for written authorization from the client is only necessary if the client is on a state or federal Do-Not-Call list. In fact, written approval from the client would be required in all instances before any client information could be released to a third party, such as Brinks, in order to comply with the Code of Ethics.

In order for the inspector to ensure that his/her actions do not precipitate any claims of inadequate disclosure on the part of the client, the written consent must include acknowledgment that Brinks sells home products, and that the company may make one or more follow-up calls after the inspection.

Also, promotional materials from Brinks indicate that participating inspectors can offer the alarm inspection and the home warranty as added services to their clients. In fact, it needs to be made very clear in any promotional materials produced by the inspector or Brinks that the alarm inspection and home warranty are being provided by Brinks, not by the home inspector.

It would be wise for the home inspector to acquire written assurances from Brinks that the company will absolutely not contact the client, if requested by the client. We recommend that the home inspector also receive permission from the seller of the property to allow the additional inspector on site. Since there is possible liability associated with recommending the services of an additional inspector/salesperson on site, home inspectors should consider requiring that Brinks indemnify the home inspector from any liability occasioned by Brinks’ inspection. Finally, it is also recommended that home inspectors make their clients aware of the limitations of the warranty that is being offered to them by Brinks, prior to asking the client to sign any consent form.