June, 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 committee’s response to the first question below reflects its view that the potential for conflicts of interest to arise from performing other qualified inspection or testing services, besides inspections as defined by the ASHI Standards of Practice, is minimal. The second question is one example of several questions the Committee has received regarding home inspectors who also perform some form of real estate sales activity. ASHI’s Bylaws are quite clear on this subject and are the primary reference for a question of this type from an ASHI member.

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 form is available at the ASHI Web site under Downloads/ASHI Forms & Documents.

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

Request for interpretation

Single-component inspections
Working as a licensed Master Carpenter to certify a roof or etc., but never doing any work on a home I inspect as an ASHI member, am I violating ASHI’s Code of Ethics?

Response
Nothing in the ASHI Code of Ethics prohibits inspectors from offering other inspection or testing services, whether as stand-alone services, as services provided in conjunction with inspections meeting the Standards of Practice, or as follow-up services.

Request for interpretation

Real estate agent/home inspector
Is it a violation of the Code of Ethics to maintain a real estate license while practicing as a home inspector if I don’t inspect houses that I’ve listed or sold to a buyer?

Response
Maintaining a real estate license while practicing as a home inspector is not directly addressed by the Code of Ethics. However, the Code states that “Inspectors shall avoid conflicts of interest or activities that compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity, or inspection integrity.” The Society has long maintained that there is an inherent conflict of interest when inspectors are also active licensed real estate brokers or salespersons, whether or not such inspectors “inspect properties for compensation in which they have, or expect to have, a financial interest.” This is embodied in the Bylaws as follows: “2.1.2 To avoid the possibility or appearance of a conflict of interest, a Member or Candidate, as defined in Sections 2.2 and 2.4.2 shall not, other than a retired Member, be actively engaged in business as a broker or salesperson in the sale, purchase or listing of real estate.” The inherent conflict of interest, as defined by ASHI’s Bylaws, makes it a violation of the Code for a practicing home inspector to maintain an active real estate license. Consumers of home inspection services need to be sure that the inspector they hire has avoided any appearance of a conflict of interest, as well as any actual conflict of interest.