This week’s question comes from a thousand other home inspectors, including just about everyone in my company. What happens when we get a request to inspect a house a second time? The most common scenario that triggers this situation is where someone from my company inspects a home and the deal falls apart, then we get a call from someone else to inspect the home again.
This is a tough question to answer because it raises some ethical questions. Because we now have intimate knowledge about the home, do we have an obligation to report that information to the new client? Would disclosing information from a previous inspection violate our code of ethics? Is it right for us to tell the client that we had previously inspected the home? Are we obligated to tell our client that we had inspected the home previously? These are all great topics for discussion amongst home inspectors, and I don’t think the answers are black and white. I’d like to share my thoughts on these questions, however.
Code of Ethics
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has a Code of Ethics for the home inspection profession, which is incorporated into the ASHI Standard of Practice. As an ASHI Certified Inspector (ACI), this is the Code of Ethics that I am obligated to follow; the same goes for everyone else in my company and any other member of ASHI. Even though this Code of Ethics only applies to home inspections, I feel it’s proper to extrapolate these ethics to other similar services that my company provides, such as radon testing, stucco testing, and other similar inspection services.
So anyway, the Code of Ethics says the following about releasing information about the inspection to anyone other than our client:
Inspectors shall not disclose inspection results or client information without client approval.
That sentence explains why home inspectors are always diligent about asking clients if they would like their agent to receive a copy of the inspection report. It always seems curious to me when a client doesn’t want their agent to receive a copy of the report… but it does happen.
The one exception to this relates to immediate safety hazards. The Code of Ethics also says the following:
Inspectors, at their discretion, may disclose observed immediate safety hazards to occupants exposed to such hazards, when feasible.
I usually limit such disclosures to things like big gas leaks, carbon monoxide hazards, and things like that.
There are no obligations
The ASHI Code of Ethics doesn’t tell home inspectors that they must disclose to a client that an inspection was ever previously done on a property. Nevertheless, I think that any client would appreciate knowing this information, so this is always something that I share with my client when performing an inspection on a house for the second time. I tell my client that my company has already inspected the home, and that’s pretty much where I leave it. The one thing that I can’t do is to share my previous inspection results.
I do, however, always make a point of reading any previous inspection reports that my company has done at a property. When it comes to finding potential defects at a home, I’ll take any advantage that I can get. I feel the same way for home buyers as well. If I were buying a home and all things were equal, I’d prefer to hire the inspector who had already been there once.
When inspecting a house for the second time, we inspect the house just as thoroughly as we did the first time. We do not offer a discount because it’s no less work to inspect a house the second time. We’re still responsible to report on the condition of the house at the time of our inspection. We can’t simply copy-and-paste our old report.
If you’re a local competitor of mine here in the Twin Cities, you may stop reading here. There’s no more useful information after this, so you needn’t scroll down any further ;-). But seriously, if you’re not a home inspector, there’s no more useful information here for you.
Here at Structure Tech, we keep track of duplicate inspections through an invaluable service called Inspection Support Network, or ISN. It’s the service we use to keep track of all of our inspections, to offer online scheduling for real estate agents and a thousand other things. It also sends us an alert anytime we’re scheduled to inspect a house that we’ve already inspected. The alert looks like the one below:
What would we do without ISN? I don’t know. That’s like asking what we did before we had digital cameras. We got by, but things were very different.