- Professional Standards

The State of the Profession

Regulation of a Profession

For any profession to be taken seriously, that profession needs to be regulated. There are two types of regulation, government regulation and self-regulation.

Government regulation is brought about by enacting a law that the profession has to comply with, whereas self-regulation is where the profession regulates the actions of its own professionals.

Codes and Standards

In either case, the actions of the regulated professional are measured against a specific rule-set.

In the majority of professions that are either self-regulated or regulated by the government, the defining set of rules that govern, the regulation of, the profession is the code of ethics.

Sometimes a profession will adopt a code of conduct, and even though the terms “code of ethics” and “code of conduct” are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences between them.

  • A Code of Ethics details the general ethics that a person or employee should uphold.

  • A Code of Conduct details the way that a person or employee should behave to uphold the code of ethics.

To guide professionals to provide better consumer protection and improve their performance, aligned with the code of ethics, are codes of conduct, and standards of practice.

This is because a code of ethics is only effective if it corresponds to a set of behaviours that uphold those ethics.

While a code of conduct may not always correspond to a code of ethics, a code of ethics must have a corresponding code of conduct.

Divided we fall.

The underlying problem with the Home Inspection Profession, in Canada, is the inability to accurately define what levels of protection we offer to the consumer.

Currently, in Canada, there are several different codes. These can be summarized by their underlying principles.

  • The CAHPI and ASHI Code of Ethics declare that their fundamental principles are Integrity, Honesty and Objectivity.

  • InterNACHI’s fundamentals are based upon being fair, honest, impartial, non-discriminatory and protecting consumers’ confidentiality.

  • OAHI does not have a code of Ethics, instead opting for a Code of Conduct.

  • OntarioACHI has opted to utilize a uniform Code of Ethics which encompasses both a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct.

The performance of a profession can only be regulated upon what its professionals are expected to do as part of their services to the public.

Without a unified set of codes and standards, the profession cannot properly self-regulate itself, nor can it advocate its services to the public and other professions.

The Home Inspection Profession across North America is fractured by historical animosities that are more akin to a spat in a children’s playground than expected from true professionals.

It’s about the control

Each subdivision in the profession has resulted in a “not-developed-here” or “we can do better” mentality and this, in turn, has led to the fractured codes and standards.

This has had the result of us, as inspectors, being unable to talk to the public, other professions and government regulators with a single voice.

We recently had a video conference between some Canadian Associations and the immediate recognition was that we should all speak with one voice.

The problem is, that because of the “not-developed-here” syndrome, almost every association wanted its voice to be the one we all spoke with.

The thing that most of the people on the call didn’t understand was that nearly all of our codes, and standards were written by Home Inspectors and these codes and standards provide more protection for our profession than they did to the consumer.

Almost every single Code is written and published as <Insert Association’s Name> Code or Standard.

This shows that the problem is not that these associations are against working towards better standards, but they are using the standards independently to promote themselves to potential new members. It’s less about improving the profession and more about keeping control.

Re-inventing the wheel.

Each Standard of Practice, Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct that has been written for the Home Inspection profession over the last 40-years has had at the core the mindset that the profession knows best what consumers need from us, and that we knew how to regulate our profession.

It is painfully obvious the lack of confidence place in us by consumers, Realtors and other professional regulators that we were wrong.

We have continually re-invented the wheel with ever updated codes and standards, which provide no more consumer protection than they did 40 years ago.

In 2016 the CSA Group rewrote the home Inspection Standard, plagiarizing from the existing standards to produce a Profession independent standard, the CAN/CSA A770-16 home Inspection Standard.

While many associations stated they would recognize this standard, and allow their certified members to adopt it, there was nothing to regulate those members to adopt and adhere to this standard.

While some associations stated they would recognize this standard, and allow their certified members to adopt it, there was nothing to regulate those members to adopt and adhere to this standard.

While several associations stated they would recognize this standard, and allow their certified members to adopt it, there was nothing to regulate those members to adopt and adhere to this standard.

We continue to see associations and Franchises develop and redevelop their existing rules for conduct, each time stating that it’s the best, most up to date, one to use.   Standards should not be a marketing tool for Associations to gain membership.   Membership services should.  Standards should be the very underlying rules that set what we do, and how we communicate what we do for the people that pay our wages…Consumers.

The CAN/CSA A770 Home Inspection Standard, is developed independently of any Association control.  It is a balanced set of rules that equally protects Inspectors and their clients.   Is it perfect? No, but it does have an inbuilt review process that utilises Inspection Professionals as well as legal, trade and consumer advocates to ensure future releases can be made more efficient.

Every Home Inspection Association in Canada allows its members to perform inspections in compliance with this standard, but only one has said this is the only standard that should be used by its Certified Members. 

We have seen over the past three years, inspectors, with the blessing of their Associations that “allow” the CSA Standard, create subsets of this standard and advertise these sub-standard services to the public.  This has further diluted the message of a single voice.

Every Home Inspection in Canada has its own code of Ethics, named after it, only one has opted for an open-source, non-partisan Code of Ethics that encompasses both Ethics and conduct.  Again, as a Profession, we are unable to talk with one voice, because each Association or Franchise wants its voice to be the dominant one.

Public Perception

While every standard allows the Inspector to perform inspections of component items in a home, based upon a contractual agreement between inspector and client, advertising that one is fully prepared to continuously lower the level of standards for a fee decrease, no report or a faster inspection time is counter-productive to improving the profession and more to the point improving the public perception of the profession.

One would hope, in a self-regulated profession, that the Professional Associations would look harshly at any members that market their business in this fashion. The sad news is that there are many instances, that provide evidence, some Associations actually permit this action.

The profession as a whole can’t establish a public perception of high standards and great consumer protection when as a Profession we can’t stop inspectors from actively seeking business by lowering their standards.

Worse still, the Provinces that legally regulate Home Inspectors are also silent on this practice.

United we stand!

This profession is at the precipice of an abyss. While a minimal number of Inspectors are managing to eke out a fair existence, the majority of inspectors are struggling. Over the past three years, it is estimated that at least 60% of Inspectors have gone out of business.

Some blame this on the market. Multiple offers certainly have put the squeeze on a buyer’s ability to ask for conditions, but why would anyone want to forego their obligation to ensure the property was sound and worth purchasing? Only one answer satisfies this question. Because the public in general sees the risk of buying a property without an inspection as not much more than buying a property with one. This is universally base upon selective reports of wrongdoing of inspectors. Many, many great inspectors work hard and do their best for consumers.

When we analyze why this is, the previous paragraphs of this post establish that. There is a general lack of confidence in the ability of the profession, as a whole, to be able to provide independent, objective information that can be relied upon by consumers to allow them to better manage their risks. Unfortunately, to paraphrase Mark Twain, Bad News can travel halfway around the world before good news gets a chance to put its pants on.

When the question is posed to inspectors as to why this public perception is the way it is, the answer invariably comes back as either it is someone else’s fault or it is because of the market conditions.

It’s time we became accountable for the reasons of our own demise.

As a Profession, we are unable to align under a single Uniform Canadian Code of Ethics, we refuse to accept a Code of Conduct or Standard of Practice that’s got someone else’s name on it, and we market our services, and charge for them, below their real worth and we allow Realtors, who are not skilled or regulated in-home Inspections, to dictate to us and our clients what we should do, how we should do it, what we should charge and how long we should take to perform inspections.  If we tried to exact the same control over other professionals we refer, we would be given a polite (or not) PFO!

When we look at the various associations, we see the same ego’s and animosities that created the fractured profession in the first place, with everyone stating they are the best, yet with almost none of us actually achieving anything more than memberships to provide funds for administration, and not actually regulating that membership to enhance the public perception and professional recognition our members deserve.

We don’t need a single Association to “control” the profession, we need those Associations that already exist to align behind a single set of rules, enforce those rules and share between each other when our members have been found in contravention of those rules to prevent Association hopping, and we need to advocate the public as one voice.

United we will stand, but for that to happen we have to be united, if not in our Association and Franchise membership, then in the things the public believe we should be doing for them, rather than what we think we should be doing for ourselves.

My fear is that given past experience, and current inaction to alter our own attitudes and egos, this profession will be dead within eighteen months to two years.

Against our usual security practice, we’ve opened this post up to comments.  We want to hear from consumers, regulators and inspectors alike as to whether you agree or disagree with this view and more to the point why?    Troll comments and spam will get deleted.

 

About Len Inkster

Len is an accomplished consultant with a strong background in root-cause-analysis and education. Coming from both an Information Systems Security and Construction background Len is an all-rounder. Len's Inspection skills range from Home Inspections to Mould, Radon, and other Indoor Air Quality consultancy services, as well as Asbestos identification and sampling services. Although fully capable, Len has consistently refused to provide remediation services on the basis that to provide inspection services and remediation services is, in his eyes, a serious conflict of interest. You can call Len at (289) 214-7531 or email him at leni @ fppi.ca
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