I just returned from four days of a national home inspector conference. One of the classes I took was about the legal ramifications of report writing. One thing talked about regarded
home inspection standards of practice vs. standards of care.
The instructor said was that if we inspectors are not concerned with standards of care we should be. When he asked how many inspectors in the class, some 200, had heard the phrase "standards of care" and no hands were raised.
It got me thinking. Thinking hard. My thinking agitated Standards me more and more. What bothered me was the comparison, in my mind anyway, of the words practice and care.
Having standards is important everywhere, and in every industry. Standards set up rules of conduct or desireable performance. They are set up by an accepted authority and the idea is to accept and adhere to them. Some good synonyms would be guideline, bar, benchmark and criterion.
There are many associations that home inspectors can join that offer standards for their members to practice. They have codes of ethics that their members are expected to adhere to. And they offer education toward understanding the best practice of their suggested standards. Some states have determined similar criteria, and suggest strict adherence by home inspectors in their state.
Practice The practices these associations have are defined. As regards whatever system or component they say what the inspector IS expected to observe and describe in a report. The practices also define what the inspector IS NOT expected to do. That does not mean that the inspector is prohibited from doing certain things, or cannot exceed the standards, but the standard of expectation is not there. Those things are left up to the discretion or desire of the inspector.
I like standards. I understand standards. Standards are objective, and I can conform my thinking and practices to them.
But the word "care" bothered me. NOT BECAUSE I DO NOT CARE ABOUT MY CLIENTS, OR CARE ABOUT DOING THE BEST JOB I CAN ON A HOME INSPECTION. But the word "care" as a standard is not only harder to define but conform to.
The instructor said that more and more inspectors, when caught up in a legal circumstance, are being held to the "reasonable" local "standard of care" performed by other home inspectors nearby.
After listening I raised my hand. How in the world is the "local" standard of care defined, and by whom? And who could possibly determine what home inspectors in a given locale are doing to "reasonably care" for their clients?
Care I wasn't arguing. For me the word care was just too hard to define and understand.
Every year my E&O insurance company recommends phraseology that I should include in my report writing. They suggest particular verbiage. They even suggest particular links.
Why? Because they see where home inspectors nationwide are running into issues, and, to use an insurance word, how inspectors have more and more EXPOSURE to these issues and such liability.
Care is more subjective. It is defined as attention or consideration to doing something correctly to avoid risk or damage. That implies practice, but it's more squishy. Care is what the home inspection business is all about! But as a standard?
But how can home inspectors be held to a local standard of care, as opposed to a generally-accepted standard of practice is beyond me. Who determines that 71% of home inspectors take a photo of this or that, or 84% do something a certain way and all that suggests reasonable care?
I don't know! You are invited to help me.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560