Home inspector inspecting plumbing around a bathroom sink

Home Inspection Ethics: 13 Things Home Inspectors Are Not Allowed to Do

By Published On: May 30th, 2023Categories: Home Inspection Career Guide0 Comments

As a home inspector, there are things you must do, things you’re advised against doing, and things you’re not allowed to do – from a legal and liability standpoint. In other words, there are do’s, don’t have to’s, and definite don’ts when you’re out in the field. Keep reading to learn about the biggest don’ts and the reasons behind them. Don’t forget to bookmark this blog for future reference! 

Home Inspection Ethics: A Brief Background

First, here’s a brief background on home inspector ethics.  

Licensed home inspectors are generally expected to follow a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, known as SOPs. Following these guidelines helps safeguard the reputation of your business and the public’s perception of your service. They also ensure the quality of your service, instill trust in your skills, and give your clients peace of mind when they choose to work with you. 

Typically, you’ll learn the Code of Ethics and the SOPs during home inspection training. And at AHIT, we’ll even give you an eTextbook version of each for reference throughout your career. 

Additionally, both major professional home inspection trade organizations publish their own Codes of Ethics, SOPs, and even limitations of the job. If you become a member of either organization, the links below will be your guidelines. 

American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI)  International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI®) 
Code of Ethics  Code of Ethics 
Standard of Practice  Standards of Practice 
General Limitations and Exclusions  Limitations of a Home Inspection 

Your state’s home inspection licensing department might also require you to learn and adhere to its own SOPs and Code of Ethics. You’ll learn about these during the license application process. 

No matter which guidelines you follow as a home inspector, it’s important to let standards and ethics be your guide in your business. Adhering to best practices – and promoting as much in your marketing – will undoubtedly set you apart from competitors. 

13 Things Home Inspectors Are Not Allowed To Do

Here are 13 major don’ts in home inspection. Doing any of these things could increase your liability and create legal issues for your business. 

#1: Don’t Diagnose Problems With Systems or Components 

Home inspectors visually inspect home systems and components non-invasively. But they don’t diagnose problems they see. The standard practice is to include a recommendation on the inspection report for the client to get a specialized inspection for any problems that are noted. 

#2: Don’t Estimate the Lifespan of Systems or Components 

Home inspectors shouldn’t offer estimates about the remaining life of a system or component. While the client may ask for an opinion, giving it can be a liability, particularly if a system breaks down sooner than the estimated lifespan given. 

Instead, the inspector should include a recommendation for the client to get a specialized inspection for any area that needs closer evaluation. 

#3: Don’t Share Insight on a Home’s Value, Insurability, or Viability as an Investment 

Home inspectors shouldn’t give clients (or real estate agents) opinions on a home’s value, price, insurability, or viability as an investment. Legally, inspectors aren’t allowed to answer these questions, and they aren’t technically equipped to do so. Offering any kind of real estate or insurance advice can complicate a sale and overstep boundaries – even when done with the best of intentions.  

#4: Don’t Damage a Home During an Inspection 

Home inspections should be visual and non-invasive. Standard practice sets the guideline that a home inspector should never cause damage to a home during an inspection. That means, for example, no pulling up carpet to inspect a foundation, no cutting holes in walls to access electrical wiring, and no disassembling a system for a deeper look. 

#5: Don’t Move Large Items During an Inspection 

Home inspectors shouldn’t move large, heavy items – even if they are blocking an area they need to inspect. This is both for the safety of the inspector and the integrity of the client’s home. Standard practice states that the inspector should note the area that was inaccessible in the inspection report and continue with the inspection.  

#6: Don’t Risk Safety During an Inspection 

Home inspectors are free to use their own judgment when deciding to enter an area that needs a visual inspection. If there’s a safety hazard preventing the inspection of an area or system, the inspector has the right and the legal responsibility to skip it and move on. 

#7: Don’t Inspect Non-Working or Specialized Systems 

Home inspectors shouldn’t inspect non-working or specialized systems that are not part of a standard home inspection. This includes non-working systems, whether they’re just not installed, shut down, or otherwise inoperable.  

Examples of specialized systems that don’t have to be inspected include: 

  • Underground storage tanks 
  • Detached structures other than carports and garages 
  • Window air conditioners or through-wall AC units 
  • Central vacuum systems 
  • Flue and chimney vents 
  • Outdoor cooking appliances 
  • Sprinkler systems 
  • Decorative elements 

#8: Don’t Inspect or Offer Contracted Services for Properties Where You Have a Financial Interest 

Home inspectors should never inspect properties in which they have or stand to gain financial interest. The same goes for offering repair, renovation, or contracting services outside of a home inspection. It’s unethical to perform repairs or renovations on a home you’ve recently inspected. Plus, the Code of Ethics states the inspector must wait at least 12 months after performing an inspection to offer repair or renovation services for the home. 

#9: Don’t Speculate On or Enforce Building Codes 

Home inspectors should not speculate on whether a house is “up to code.” They also don’t have the ability to “condemn” a property as “unlivable.” Only local government officials can determine compliance with building codes and enforce code rules. In fact, home inspectors aren’t required to know building codes, though it’s often helpful for background knowledge. 

#10: Don’t Try to Determine Property Lines and Boundaries 

Home inspectors should not try to determine property lines and boundaries. This is a land surveyor’s responsibility. They are trained to measure, mark, and outline property boundaries, easements, and encroachments – and correctly report the size of a property.  

#11: Don’t Tell the Client Their Home “Passed” or “Failed” an Inspection 

In home inspections, there is no “pass” or “fail.” Home inspectors visually assess the condition of a property and complete an inspection report on the property. The inspection report is the intelligence a homebuyer or seller needs to make educated decisions on repairs needed and their overall investment in the home. The report should be an independent, impartial evaluation and make no mention of a “passing” or “failing” score. 

#12: Don’t Give an Opinion on the Aesthetic or Cosmetic Condition of a Home 

Home inspectors should not give opinions or advice on the aesthetics or cosmetic condition of a home. This is out of the scope of a standard home inspection. The inspector’s job is strictly to visually evaluate the functionality of major systems and report on their condition.  

#13: Don’t Discriminate in Business Practices 

It may be common sense, but it bears repeating. Home inspectors should never discriminate in any business activities. Inspectors have a responsibility to act in good faith with the public. A home inspector should follow all federal, state, and local laws concerning discrimination. This is especially true as it relates to the federally protected classes of age, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability. 

The Most Important Thing a Home Inspector Does

Above all, the most important thing a home inspector does is assessing the condition of a home with fairness, honesty, and impartiality.  

The inspection report is an important piece of the real estate transaction puzzle. Clients rely on it for peace of mind when making one of the biggest decisions of their lives. And, as a home inspector, you rely on your clients for your livelihood.  

Keep ethical and practical standards top-of-mind in your business, whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned pro in the field. Do this, and eventually, your solid reputation will precede you. 

Master the Ins and Outs of Home Inspection With AHIT

With so many standards to learn, rules to follow, and tips to remember – learning home inspection can feel overwhelming. Make it easy by training with AHIT! Learn the Standards of Practice in-depth, master how to write inspection reports, and practice your skills with hands-on training. Plus, get business-building and marketing tips to help launch your successful home inspection business from day one.  

Find your state course and enroll in best-in-class home inspector training today! 

About the Author: Ashley Roe

Ashley Roe is a Content Specialist with AHIT and The CE Shop. She writes regularly about home inspection and appraisal. With a reporter's eye and a passion for learning, Ashley stays current on what's happening within each industry. Her goal is to create engaging, relevant, and useful content that both informs and inspires readers.

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