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Home Inspection Standards Of Practice vs. Standards Of Care

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

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 13 commentsJay Markanich • October 17 2014 03:10AM

Comments

Jay, unfortunately "Standard of Care" is determined by the judge. And, every judge is different! So, stay confused, the judicial systme is! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) almost 5 years ago

Jay, I so hear you that 'care' is a very loosely defined verbiage in your business...I see some home inspectors who use the standards as required and others who are loose about it...it is a tough business.  I expect all standards of evaluation on my clients homes to be covered from mechanical, structural, health, electrical, environmental and what ever else they discuss that concerns them with the HI.

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) almost 5 years ago

Easy for me.

A standard is easily defined, predetermined and easy to evaluate.

Caring is what folks who have nothing to contribute claim as their value.

As in, "I don't know a damned thing, but I care."

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 5 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Where in a home inspection is caring a part other than you will care enough to give the best inspection and care enough to pass the information to the client purchasing the inspection. As we are each individuals we will look at a task in different ways and report on it from the different ways we were taught.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) almost 5 years ago

Thanks Wayne.  My feelings exactly.

Ginny - I am still struggling with the concept.  I would doubt that my insurance company (or yours) would be able to defend a claim that we didn't care, or perform to a standard of care.

Lenn - our standards are defined to the hilt, as are yours probably.   And there is another layer of ethics on top of that.  I think people who wear ribbons, for example, to show they "care," meet your statement exactly.

Thanks Raymond.  I spoke with the instructor the next day and told him of my thinking, struggle and confusion.  He shrugged it off saying that a "reasonable" standard is applied everywhere.  That just added more confusion.  It seemed he didn't like me and doesn't often, or ever, have a hand raised in wondering opposition.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Jay, the way I look at this is that WAY too many home inspectors are using the "standards" to such a "minimum" that it just shows they DO NOT CARE.  So when involved in a suit, lawyers will look at what other inspectors are doing with those "minimums" as compared to other inspectors in their area.  I don't think it is an attempt to raise the bar, or make everything squishy, it is merely an attempt to see if the inspector is caring at all.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 5 years ago

Geez, Charlie, I wouldn't know about whether many or a few inspectors are doing the minimum or don't care.  I have never met one of those, although I am called in to a situation where an inspector said this or that and I am asked to reinspect something.  And how in the world would a lawyer get information from a bunch (representative sample) of other inspectors who are doing something different than the inspector the lawyer is going after.

One thing the instructor said is that the law isn't about justice, but it IS about trying to convince a group of people about a certain position. 

And I don't think anyone is trying to make anything "squishy," my word in the post, but that the concept of "care" all by itself it very hard to define.

You really think that "way too many home inspectors" do not care?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Jay, I think the "care" part comes down to business model and not something that can be legislated.  One of the reason the SOP's are so minimal is because of the sheer impossibility of making them for encompassing.  As more and more inspectors attempt and succeed at delivering a higher level of service (care) the public expectation is also raised.  Those that think that doing ONLY the minimum is all that is necessary to keep them out of court will be setting themselves up for lawsuit after lawsuit--even though they are meeting the SOP's.  It is always the case that some people are left to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next century. 

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) almost 5 years ago

Of course it can't be legislated Charlie!  Interesting, but on a home inspection I am never thinking of court.  I never have.  I'm just trying to do a good job and have a good time doing it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

Back in my former career "care" was not defined or used.  We found out as Wayne pointed out "care" is defined by the Judge hearing the case.  What goes for one does not define what the interpretation is for another.  That's why each case is determined on the factors for each one.  Good luck on this one

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) almost 5 years ago

Thanks James!  I love luck!  But it's a squishy, undefinable thing too...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

 Good morning Jay. I to wrestle with the standards of practice versus the standards of care. As home inspectors we do care about our clients and we care what happens to the transaction. Or at least we should.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) almost 5 years ago

That's the debate I got into with the instructor Michael.  When I said of course we all care, he said it isn't about "caring," per se, it is about a "legal, reasonable standard" as to how we do things.  Undefinable. 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 5 years ago

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