The new ASHI Standard of Practice for Home Inspections (SoP) takes effect on March 1, 2014. Inspections performed after that date should comply with the new SoP. This event is an excellent opportunity to do something that will improve your client service and reduce your risk. Every year or so, you should compare your procedures and report to the Standard of P ractice that affects you to be sure you are giving your clients everything they should be getting from their inspection. Why not do this now?
This article presents some of the highlights of the new SoP. Unfortunately, since we have yet to heed the memorable line from Shakespeare’s Henry VI to “kill all the lawyers,” we have to make a couple disclaimers. Reading this article is not a substitute for reading the new SoP. There are more changes there than we will discuss here. This article is not an official interpretation of the new SoP. If you have a question about the new SoP, please send a Request for Interpretation to the Standards Committee.
The Rationale for Change
The Standards Committee published a rational for the proposed changes to the 2006 Standards of Practice. This rationale is available on the ASHI website at: homeinspector.org/standards/default.aspx. This article does not discuss the rationale behind the changes. Please read the rationale because it provides a good way to see all of the changes in one place, comparing the old and all the new SoP changes side by side.
Which SOP do I Use?
In the beginning, this question didn’t need to be asked. Today, with many home inspection standards out there, the question is relevant. The answer is, fortunately, reasonably simple. Use your state standards of practice if you live in a state that licenses home inspectors and has state-mandated standards. Use the new ASHI SoP if you live in a state that doesn’t license home inspectors or if you live in a state that licenses home inspectors and gives you a choice of which SoP to use.
Is the ASHI SoP relevant in home inspector-license to states? The answer is maybe. If your state standards contradict or prohibit a requirement in the ASHI SoP, you should comply with your state standards. There are no known circumstances where this currently applies. If the ASHI SoP imposes additional requirements above your state standards, you would be wise to comply with the additional ASHI SoP requirements. Whether or not you might be required to do so is unclear and would depend on each individual case.
Inspecting Kitchen Appliances
The change with the largest impact, for some inspectors, is the requirement to inspect installed kitchen appliances by operating one primary function. The appliances that you should inspect are the cooking appliances (ranges, ovens, surface units, microwave ovens, etc.), the dishwashing machine, and the food waste grinder (the disposal). The refrigerator and laundry appliances are among the appliances that you are not required to inspect; but you may do so if you wish.
Installed is a defined term in the SoP and means the same thing for appliances as it does for other components. One primary function means turning the appliance on and off. For example, testing a range would involve activating all burners and the bake function of the oven. Testing a dishwashing machine would involve determining that water flows in and water flows out as it should.
As stated in the SoP, testing kitchen appliances does not include determining if the appliance is adequately performing its intended functions and it does not include determining if sensors, thermostats and other devices are accurately calibrated. These are important limitations that you should include in your report.
Inspecting Fireplaces and Fuel-burning Appliances
SoP Section 12 deals with fuel-burning “fireplaces” and similar components. This section was revised to clarify which systems and components should be inspected. The revisions did not change the intent of the 2006 SoP, so the revisions in the new SoP should not change procedures and reports for most inspectors.
You should inspect solid fuel-burning fireplaces including those constructed using masonry and those constructed using factory-made components. Everyone should have been doing this for years. You should inspect gas and liquid fuel-burning fireplaces. Everyone should have been doing this as well. You should inspect fuel-burning fireplace accessories such as gas logs. You should inspect fireplace inserts and fuel-burning stoves. You should inspect the readily accessible parts of these devices such as chimneys and vent systems.
The requirement to inspect AFCI devices has been added to the existing clause requiring inspection of GFCIs. The intent of this requirement is to leave AFCI inspection procedures to the judgment of the inspector.
The minimum requirement for inspecting AFCI devices, and GFCI devices for that matter, is a visual inspection of the device. Testing the operation of AFCI and GFCI devices is not required by the 2006 SoP or by the new SoP. Most inspectors test GFCI devices, so testing GFCI devices may be the de facto standard of care in most markets. The jury is still out (pun intended) on whether or not to test AFCI devices. Testing these devices in unoccupied buildings is common and may become the standard of care.
Reporting Carbon Monoxide
The requirement to report the presence or absence of carbon monoxide alarms has been added to the existing clause about smoke alarms. You are not required to test smoke or carbon monoxide alarms. You are not required to determine the age or type of these alarms.
The requirement to probe structural members if deterioration is suspected is deleted. The probing exclusion in the 2006 SoP has been moved to Section 13 (General Exclusions) and now applies to all components. You are not required to probe any component that would be damaged by probing. You are not required to probe any component unless there is visible evidence of deterioration or unless you have reason to believe that deterioration may exist. You may probe any component if you believe probing will provide useful information.
Reporting Solid-conductor Aluminum Wiring
The requirement to report the presence of solid-conductor branch circuit wiring has been eliminated. Please see The Word in the January 2014 issue of The Reporter for more about the reasons for this change and a discussion of the issues.
Reporting Wiring Methods
The requirement to report all branch circuit wiring methods is replaced by the requirement to report the predominant branch circuit wiring method. The predominant method is the one you believe constitutes the majority of the home’s branch circuit wiring. You should continue to report the presence of certain wiring methods such as knob and tube, in accordance with Section 2.2.B, if you believe the wiring method is deficient or unsafe
Crawlspace and Attic Access
Accessibility guidelines have been added regarding crawlspaces and attics. As guidelines, you may choose whether or not to use them. You need not enter a crawlspace with an opening smaller than 16 by 24 inches and you need not enter a crawlspace area with less than 24 inches between the floor and an obstruction. You need not walk in attic areas that are covered by insulation or are otherwise obscured.
Other Noteworthy Changes
The following are other changes that may affect you. As we discussed, this is not a complete list.
- Filling shower pans and other fixtures to test for leaks is not required.
- Reporting the service voltage is no longer required
- Reporting minor cosmetic imperfections is not required
- The execlusion regarding imperfections in carpeting is expanded to include all floor coverings
- Like other sections that involve chimneys, Section 12 no longer requires describing chimneys.
- Inspecting renewable energy systems such as geothermal heat pumps, solar photovoltaic systems and heat/energy recovery ventilation systems is not required.
- Inspecting hermetic seals and coatings on glazing, such as low emissivity, is not required.
The Standards Committee thanks everyone who participated in the difficult and important process of updating the ASHI Home Inspection SoP. With this update, we believe that the ASHI SoP will regain its place as the leading standard in the industry
By the way, note that the “s” in the word “Standards” is deleted. The correct name is the ASHI Standard of Practice for Home Inspections.