The ASHI Code of Ethics Committee is charged with developing ethics education and awareness for ASHI members and answering Requests for Interpretation (RFI) of our Code of Ethics. Three requests received by the committee within the last year appear below. All three are based on the new Code of Ethics, approved in June 2004. Two of the interpretations address issues related to the preferred vendor programs discussed in recent Focus on Ethics columns. The third covers a situation that may be common to many home inspector households.
When serious questions arise about the intent and applicability of the revised code, members are encouraged to submit the required RFI form, which can be found on the ASHI Web site under Downloads/ASHI Forms & Documents.
We will continue to provide the members with the committee’s response to the questions posed by their fellow home inspectors.— Bill Loden, chair, 2008 ASHI Code of Ethics CommitteeRequest for Interpretation
e060106 Paying to place brochures
Is it a violation of the Code of Ethics for an inspector to pay for advertising space such as placing brochures on a table in the agency’s offices? There would be no guaranteed referrals or endorsement by the real estate agency.
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
e060221-1 Implied loyalty in marketing agreement
Is it an ethical violation to be tied to a brokerage by a marketing agreement, and getting substantial, if not exclusive, access to the inspection business from that brokerage, due to implied loyalties or other inescapable bias, even if there is no preferred vendor list, or similar written arrangement?
Advertising or marketing with real estate brokers is a clear violation of 1.C of the Code of Ethics, if such marketing includes an explicit or tacit agreement to refer real estate clients to the inspector, by printed list of preferred inspectors or by any other means. In comparison, advertising or marketing with real estate brokers that does not include a written or quid pro quo agreement for referrals does not violate any specific provisions of the Code. Nonetheless, such joint marketing ventures may appear to compromise professional independence, objectivity or inspection integrity, and should be undertaken with caution. Home inspection clients should be able to have confidence that their inspector is not being influenced by the interests of the real estate agency for the transaction. Request for Interpretation
e060221-3 Inspecting for daughter
Is it unethical for a father who is an ASHI member to perform a home inspection for his daughter who is buying a home, in light of the principle that “Inspectors shall avoid conflicts of interest or activities that compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity or inspection integrity?”
Any parent would want to help his or her child during a home purchase, including offering his/her expertise regarding the property condition. Performing an inspection under such circumstances would not be a violation of the Code so long as there was disclosure, and it was understood by all parties that such an evaluation was not purported to be an independent, objective inspection.