Can Home Inspectors Offer to Make Repairs?
A common misconception amongst home inspectors is that its unethical for them to make repairs on a home they have inspected. It is actually only unethical for a home inspector to lie about defects in order to manipulate a buyer into hiring them for repairs.
There is nothing inherently unethical with a home inspector performing repairs on a home they have inspected.
There is however an inherent conflict of interest. The conflict is the temptation for a home inspector to use their home inspection to drum up repair business. Many states and the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors have laws and rules to prevent home inspectors presented with this conflict from crossing the line into unethical behavior.
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors states
“The InterNACHI® member shall not perform or offer to perform, for an additional fee, any repairs or associated services to the structure for which the member or member’s company has prepared a home inspection report for a period of 12 months. This provision shall not include services to components and/or systems that are not included in the InterNACHI® Standards of Practice.”
Every state has different laws, and many states have no inspector laws. Here in Virginia the applicable law states:
“18VAC15-40-140. Conflict of interest.
A. The licensee shall not:
Design or perform repairs or modifications to a residential building or NRS on which he has performed a home inspection as a result of the findings of the home inspection within 12 months after the date he performed the home inspection, except in cases where the home inspector purchased the residence after he performed the home inspection;”
So, Can Home Inspectors Make Repairs?
Nearly every professional home inspector is part of InterNACHI, and an InterNACHI home inspector may not make or offer to make a repair to the home, if the repair is on a component or system that is part of the home inspection process.
While it isn’t necessarily unethical for a home inspector to engage in this practice, InterNACHI has an interest in protecting the integrity of the industry by avoiding any and all appearances of impropriety.
Home inspectors could also avoid allegations and appearances of impropriety by simply separating their home inspection clients and avoiding mixing their services. That being said InterNACHI does allow them to offer their additional services as long as it is not part of the home inspection standard of practice.
For example, during the home inspection, the home inspector finds major issues with the electrical system and electrical panel. These are both items included in the home inspector standard of practice. A home inspector would not be allowed to offer, or make repairs to this system for an additional fee.
Again, it would not be unethical unless the inspector was lying. However, an InterNACHI inspector has agreed to not engage in this practice to protect the integrity of the industry.
The home inspector COULD repair the electrical issues for free. That is unlikely to happen though.
Some inspectors are qualified or licensed for additional inspections though. For example a home inspector may also offer to perform a termite inspection. If that home inspector found termites, and was licensed to perform treatment, he could offer to treat the termites for an additional fee.
Inspecting for termites, or any pest infestations, is not part of any home inspector standard of practice so termite treatment would be allowed under the code of ethics.
Another example would be Radon testing and mitigation. Even though radon testing is not part of a home inspectors job, many home inspectors have added it to their list of offered services. The EPA recommends that all homes be tested for Radon during a real estate transaction.
If a home inspector is qualified and licensed to perform radon mitigation, they may offer it to their clients even if they performed a home inspection and radon test on the property.
Can Home Inspectors Make Repairs in Virginia?
The rule is slightly different in Virginia. Virginia makes it clear that a home inspector is only prohibited from making repairs as a direct result of their findings.
In other words, if the home inspector states the water heater was working at the time of inspection, with no defects observed, then he would not be prohibited from repairing or replacing the water heater for his clients if it fails 2 months later.
Likewise, if there were no missing shingles at the time of inspection, but a hurricane damages the roof, the home owner could reach out to their inspector who would be allowed to make the repairs.
Should Home Inspectors Make Repairs?
This is a matter of opinion. If you trust your home inspector, and they are licensed and qualified to tackle your list of repairs, it could be a good idea to utilize them. It is hard to find qualified professionals these days. When you think you’ve found one it can be a struggle to get them to call you back. A good inspector with other licenses or qualifications may be a good idea.
I do believe if this was a widespread practice, it would make sellers and real estate agents think twice about an inspectors objectivity. That is why we focus on inspections and do not do repairs on any homes. What is right for us, may not be right for every company though.
Why do inspectors have a Code of Ethics?
It is in the best interest for potential buyers and home sellers to have an unbiased third party perform the home inspection. After a thorough home inspection, the home inspector will produce a written report.
This report will be used by the home buyer, and the real estate agent to start another round of negotiations. The buyer may request that the seller pays for the cost of repairs, they may request a credit for the cost of the major problems, or they may even ask for a price reduction in the price of the home.
There are no mandatory repairs though. There is nothing that the seller is required to fix. They could decline all the buyer requests leaving the buyer to decide if they want to move forward with the deal still
You do not want these negotiations taking place on the back of a home inspector who stands to profit from the repairs. That is why state laws and InterNACHI aim to limit this conflict of interest.
Can Unlicensed Home Inspectors Make Repairs?
There are currently 18 states that do not license home inspectors. In these states anyone can operate a home inspection company, and perform home inspections. I personally believe all states should be this way, but that’s another blog.
Home inspectors who are in unlicensed states, and not part of InterNACHI would not be prohibited from doing work on a home they inspected at all. This doesn’t mean they aren’t honest.
Not everyone presented with a conflict of interest, suffers from the conflict of interest. In other words, just because there is the potential for a home inspector to lie about a defect in order to gain work, doesn’t mean he will.
In fact in 10 years I have never heard of an inspector lying about defects to gain work. It is simply not something happening with any sort of regularity. The best way to avoid unethical inspectors though would be make sure your inspector is part of InterNACHI.
The Bottom Line
Honest and qualified inspectors may have additional licenses and qualifications. There is nothing prohibiting these inspectors from leveraging the trust they’ve built with the client for future work as long as it’s not a component or system that they inspected and/or its not a job gained as a direct result of their inspection findings.