April, 2006
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 answering Requests for Interpretation of our Code of Ethics. The majority of these Requests (or RFIs) deal with the issue of real estate professional-home inspector relationships, as does the first example below. Most of us are dependent on referrals for our business, and many of these referrals come from parties who have a vested interest in the sale of inspected properties. The need for referrals can place home inspectors under pressure to compromise ethical responsibilities to our clients, as we strive to be successful in our chosen profession. We need to be aware not only of the provisions of our Code of Ethics, but also of our own motivations as we make ethical decisions regarding business arrangements with real estate agents or brokerages.
In Focus on Ethics, we present RFIs and the responses developed by the committee since the new Code of Ethics was approved. The membership is encouraged to submit RFIs to the committee if serious questions about the intent and applicability of the Code arise. The required form is available at the ASHI Web site under Downloads – ASHI Documents.<

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



Request for interpretation

Renting from real estate brokers

We are considering renting office cubicle space from a licensed realty company. We would be the only inspection company in a full-facilitized office. Is this a conflict of
interest or possibly a violation of ethics or law?

Response

Renting office space from a real estate agency does not violate any specific provision
of the Code of Ethics unless the arrangement involves a quid pro quo agreement to refer the home inspector, or involves payment of more than fair market value for the space, indicating that such an arrangement likely exists. However, the practice is not recommended since it could appear to compromise professional independence and
the integrity of the inspection. With regard to the law, we suggest you consult with an attorney in your home state.

Request for interpretation

Two contracts

Can an inspector have two different inspection contracts? One prices the inspection lower if the consumer waives the right to sue in the future if any problems are discovered. The second, for a higher fee, does not require the consumer to waive the right to sue.

Response

Offering more than one contract, or providing options in a contract, does not violate the Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics does not address contractual obligations, other than the general provision to act in good faith toward each client. Offering different contracts with differing rights does not violate the provision to act in good faith, unless the contracts are deceptive or misleading. The inspector is advised, however, to discuss the legal ramifications of any proposed contract(s) with an attorney who is familiar with applicable laws.