February, 2004
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors

Q & A for Home Inspector Ethics


Due to space limitations, selected questions received by the 2003 ASHI Code of Ethics Committee regarding the proposed new Code are briefly answered here. More questions and answers can be found in the Members Only section of ashi.org.

7. Why couldn’t an ethics code simply state that lying, cheating and stealing are unethical? 

While those are good basic ethics for life in general, such statements are too broad and open to wide interpretation. A code of ethics needs to address specific issues commonly confronting a profession’s practitioners in order to establish a common understanding and appreciation among them regarding how to apply such moral concepts.

11. Please define “appear.” What is the criteria regarding apparent conflicts of interest?

Many articles regarding conflicts of interest typically explain the need to avoid situations that appear to involve conflicts of interest in order to maintain a profession’s reputation. Avoiding the appearance of conflicts of interest is deeply ingrained in ASHI’s documents and traditions, and is found in the second paragraph of the current Code and in our Bylaws. The new Code will help remove concern about many of the insignificant conflicts of interest that are trivial. The new Code focuses on avoiding any appearance of compromising the inspector’s independence, objectivity or inspection integrity, which are more rigorous and precise criteria.

14. Is it unethical to inspect a property in which I have a personal interest instead of a financial interest? 

Not necessarily. It depends upon the strength of the personal interest and if it would appear to compromise the inspector’s judgment. For example, if the home is owned by the inspector’s best friend, he should try to avoid doing the inspection in accordance with paragraph #1. On the other hand, if the home is owned by someone from the same church who the inspector only casually knows, that situation would not appear to compromise the inspector’s judgment and, therefore, would not be considered a conflict of interest.

18. Does promoting your firm through realty agents conflict with #1? 

Not necessarily. Many realty agents desire a quality inspector who maintains his/her independence. Generally, giving agents low-cost promotion items that do not appear to compromise inspector independence, judgment or inspection integrity such as business cards, pens, letter openers, coffee mugs, note pads, doughnuts or cookies, Christmas cards, calendars, seasonal gifts, raffles of moderate cost items like a bottle of wine, etc., are considered ethical as long as not contingent upon receiving inspection referrals. Similarly, advertising in a realty firm publication or on their Web site can be ethical if clearly for advertising, done without promise, expectation or a quid pro quo understanding that referrals will result, and if the advertising does not include a preferred list. If gifts or advertising are conditioned upon or linked to receiving referrals or recommendations, or there is a quid pro quo understanding, might include understating adverse conditions at inspected properties, then such promotion to realty agents would be unethical. This is not a change from the current Code.