June, 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 ASHI’s membership and answering Requests for Interpretation of our Code of Ethics.

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.

Two Requests for Interpretation (RFIs) received within the last year are featured this month.

The first, in its broadest interpretation, asks whether or not it is unethical to pay for access to real estate agents or their clients. The Code tells us that it is unethical to pay for referrals, but does not specifically address access.

The second RFI involves the ownership of the inspection information for which the client has paid.

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. Click here to download the form.

Keith A. Oberg, chair, 2007 ASHI Code of Ethics Committee


Request for Interpretation
e080106 Paying to place brochures

Is it a violation of the Code of Ethics for an inspector to pay for advertising space, such as for placing brochures on a table in the agency’s offices? There would be no guaranteed referrals or endorsement by the real estate agency.

RESPONSE
Nothing in the Code of Ethics specifically prevents an inspector from paying for the placement of advertising, such as inspection brochures in a real estate office. This would be very similar to paying to place an ad in a real estate broker’s brochure. However, as with any payments for services or advertising with real estate agencies, there is a thin line between merely paying for a service, or paying for referrals. If the opportunity to pay to place brochures is limited to only selected inspectors, or if the payment is out of proportion for the service provided, the placement fees would be more likely to represent a form of payment for referrals in violation of the Code.

Request for Interpretation
e050322 Inspection findings disclosure

Is it a violation of the Code of Ethics to allow the real estate agent or homeowner to accompany the inspector and overhear the verbal results of the inspection without first asking the client’s permission, and should this question to the client be asked in private?  

RESPONSE
The Code of Ethics states, “inspectors shall not disclose inspection results or client information without client approval.”  It is the opinion of the committee that the Code requires the inspector to specifically seek approval from the client prior to discussing findings, that a tacit approval of the disclosure of inspection findings during an inspection, based on the lack of objection by the client, is insufficient, and to ensure against undue pressure on the client, it is best to inquire as to the client’s wishes in private in advance, as feasible. Incidentally, several state home inspection laws also support the client’s right to control disclosure of inspection information.