August, 2007
You Tell Us
Inspection News and Views from the American Society of Home Inspectors



Technical Content Needs Context

EDITED BY ASHI STAFF

To the editor,

I share Don Norman’s appreciation for technical articles by our members (Letters, July). However, I’m concerned about articles that do not put technical information in a proper context or explain the duties of ASHI members who inspect the components discussed. The “Code Corner” does not explain the role of an ASHI Inspector as it relates to codes.  ASHI Standards of Practice Section 13.2. states:

“General Exclusions:

A. Inspectors are NOT required to determine:
8. compliance with regulatory requirements (codes, regulations, laws, ordinances, etc.)”


The “Code Corner” and other articles refer to codes, in part, because ASHI Standards of Practice defines the term Unsafe as:

“A condition in a readily accessible, installed system or component that is judged to be a significant risk of bodily injury during normal, day-to-day use; the risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation, or a change in accepted residential construction standards.”

The definition is interpreted at: http://www.ashi.org/members/resources/interpretations/standards/s991109-1.asp.

The interpretation says it is NOT necessary to refer to code when reporting a condition that the inspector deems unsafe.

The “Code Corner” on Foam Plastic refers to codes without suggesting reading the labels found on many foam plastics. It also suggests that inspectors “check with your local enforcement authority for more information.” The author doesn’t say WHY an inspector should check local requirements. Certainly, exposed foam plastic is not safer when a local authority does not enforce the manufacturer’s covering requirement.

I work in many communities with different levels of code enforcement. Learning these differences is not practical or necessary. I inspect various age homes that, unless altered, are not regulated by current codes. Reporting on foam plastic (or other safety questions) requires me to indicate the risk the condition poses and a recommended course of action. If I mention an authority, the  manufacturer’s requirements are appropriate. Referencing code is reserved for the authority having jurisdiction, and is NOT appropriate in home inspection reports.

Authors of code and technical articles would help members by referencing applicable sections of our Standards of Practice, discussing proper inspection techniques and precautions, and offering appropriate report language.

Since ASHI Standards includes the risky burden of reporting unsafe conditions, readers of technical or code articles should compare the content of the Reporter articles to the duties and exclusions of the Standards of Practice, and consult their attorney to review inspection practices that may affect their liability.

ASHI Certified Inspector Roger Hankey

Hankey and Brown Home Inspections
Eden Prairie, Minn.