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 relating to getting paid appear below. The responses are based on the new Code of Ethics, approved in June 2004.
When serious questions arise about the intent and applicability of the revised code, members are encouraged to review previous requests and responses on the ASHI Members Only Web site under Resources. If there has not been a request for an interpretation to a similar situation, please submit your question using the required RFI form, which can be found 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, 2009 ASHI Code of Ethics Committee
Request for Interpretation
e070329 Two Contracts
Can an inspector have two different inspection contracts? One contract 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.
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.
Request for Interpretation
e070413 Identifying the client
A real estate agent recently paid a fee for an inspection I performed. This was apparently a service she was providing for her clients. The buyers were not paying for the inspection. Is this a conflict of interest under 1.B, or 1.D of the Code? At the time of the inspection, I had no idea who was actually paying until I asked for the payment.
The committee finds no violation of the Code of Ethics. There is no evidence that payment is contingent upon specific inspection findings per 1.B of the Code, nor is there evidence that payment was being made by the real estate agent without agreement between the parties per 1.D of the Code. However, the inspector has specific responsibilities to his or her client, especially with regard to disclosure of inspection results per 2.C. This requires clear understanding and agreement as to which party is the client. Request for Interpretation
e070430 Payment after closing
If an inspector does an inspection for a client, but was hired by a real estate agent and only gets paid at, or after, closing, is this a violation of the COE? The inspector is still being paid by the buyer but, in this instance, he was paid at/after closing. Had the house not gone to closing, it is not clear if he would have been paid.Response
This would represent a violation of the ASHI Code of Ethics. 1.B of the Code of Ethics states that “Inspectors shall not inspect properties under contingent arrangements whereby any compensation ... is dependent on ... sale of a property.” Since the inspector may not get paid unless the house closes, a conflict of interest arises, to the potential detriment of the client, as the inspector may be tempted to ensure that the house “passes” the inspection in order to gain payment.