Following is something to get a thread started. Its just an opinion and I am all ears.

Historically, home inspection has been about PROPERTY CONDITION. Those discoveries sometimes pose risk to occupants. According to NACHI Standards a home inspection is NOT ABOUT determining if a home is safe!

Inspectors are often held to an implied Standard. Uninformed inspectors preach what an inspection should do without careful consideration of the Standards wording. Inspectors and inspection articles improperly inform the world that home inspections are about safety. That is wrong. It sets a standard that is not in the standard!

If you conduct a survey you will find that consumers are interested in identifying expensive repairs and life span matters (NACHI excludes life span). If you offer “property condition” and “safety” as two products for two fees the client will almost always be willing to pay for property condition reporting only and certainly first. Most consumers will not pay for a separate safety report. Try selling one.

It is a misconception that home inspection is about assuring a home is safe. Home inspection is about property condition with some discoveries being judged to present unreasonable risk. There is a huge difference.

Want proof. Read NACHI SoP.

  • There are 21 uses of the word “safe” or its derivatives. None apply to the client.
  • There are 8 uses of the word “hazard” or its derivatives. None apply to the client.
  • There are 4 uses of the word “risk”. Only 1 applies directly to other persons.
  • MOST words are contained in limitations that state **the inspector is not required to **do something.
  • Only “risk” applies to people on the property and again in only one usage.
  • NACHI (and all other major SoP) exclude code inspection. Code IS safety.
  • Items of “risk” are left to the judgment of the inspector (there is an indirect relationship between “risk” and the definition of “unsafe” in the NACHI SoP)

NACHI Standards DO NOT REQUIRE you to inspect the home to assure it is safe!

IF YOU WANT a safety standard then consider writing a separate SoP that addresses the many code based concerns and offer it as an OPTIONAL product. What a great way to reduce personal injury liability. Two products offered. Let the customer accept or decline. IF they decline give them a “free” home safety check sheet so they can do their own safety inspection with a notice that they can always hire you to come back and do it.

Lastly, unsafe conditions are tempered by inspector judgment and not code (judgment - an opinion on the nature, character, or quality of something). The Scope discusses “unreasonable risk” and without definition it is left to each inspectors judgment. There is the risk a jury could define “unreasonable” and that makes you operate in fear mode; fear mode is costly and inconsistent.

I think that some areas where NACHI can improve its SoP are:

1-Find one word to use for “risk”, “safe” and “hazard”.
2-Very carefully define that “one” word.
3-Eliminate the use of “unreasonable”.
4-Preface “judgment” with “sole judgment”
5-Create and offer a safety inspection that includes all the items you can think of. Start with CodeCheck and work your way through.

Following are the NACHI Standards with everything deleted except derivatives of “safe”, “hazard” and “risk”. You will see that home inspection IS NOT ABOUT SAFETY.

  1. Definitions and Scope

No mention of “safe” or “hazard” however the following applies

1.2. A Material defect is a condition with a residential real property or any portion of it that would have a significant adverse impact on the value of the real property or that involves an unreasonable risk to people on the property. The fact that a structural element, system or subsystem is near, at or beyond the end of the normal useful life of such a structural element, system or subsystem is not by itself a material defect.

  1. Standards of Practice
    II. The inspector is not required to:
    G. Inspect for safety type glass.

2.3. Basement, Foundation & Crawlspace
II. The inspector is not required to:
A. Enter any crawlspaces that are not readily accessible or where entry could cause damage or pose a hazard to the inspector.

2.4. Heating
II. The inspector is not required to:
E. Activate heating, heat pump systems, or other heating systems when ambient temperatures or when other circumstances are not conducive to safe operation or may damage the equipment.

2.5. Cooling
II. The inspector is not required to:
C. Operate equipment or systems if exterior temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit or when other circumstances are not conducive to safe operation or may damage the equipment.

2.6. Plumbing
II. The inspector is not required to:
C. Inspect interiors of flues or chimneys, water softening or filtering systems, well pumps or tanks, safety or shut-of valves, floor drains, lawn sprinkler systems or fire sprinkler systems.
S. Test, operate, open or close safety controls, manual stop valves and/or temperature or pressure relief valves.

2.7. Electrical
Derivatives and “safe” or “hazard” not found in electrical! Isn’t that “special” :o

2.8. Fireplace
II. The inspector is not required to:

2.9. Attic, Ventilation & Insulation
II. The inspector is not required to:
A. Enter the attic or unfinished spaces that are not readily accessible or where entry could cause damage or pose a safety hazard to the inspector in his or her opinion.

2.10. Doors, Windows & Interior
II. The inspector is not required to:
C. Inspect safety glazing.
J. Verify or certify safe operation of any auto reverse or related safety function of a garage door.

  1. Limitations, Exceptions & Exclusions
    3.2. Exclusions:
    I. The inspectors are not required to determine:
    H. The compliance with codes or regulations. (these documents pertain to safe construction; not a home inspection requirement)
    K. The presence of air-borne hazards.
    P. The existence of environmental hazards.
    R. The presence of hazardous materials including, but not limited to, the presence of lead in paint.
    S. Any hazardous waste conditions.

III. The inspectors are not required to:
C. Enter or access any area which may, in the opinion of the inspector, to be unsafe or risk personal safety.
D. Enter crawlspaces or other areas that are unsafe or not readily accessible.
E. Inspect underground items such as, but not limited to, underground storage tanks or other indications of their presence, whether abandoned or actively used.
F. Do anything which, in the inspector’s opinion, is likely to be unsafe or dangerous to the inspector or others or damage property, such as, but not limited to, walking on roof surfaces, climbing ladders, entering attic spaces or negotiating with dogs.

  1. Glossary of Terms
    4.1. Accessible: Can be approached or entered by the inspector safely, without difficulty, fear or danger.
    4.23. Inspect: To visually look at readily accessible systems and components safely, using normal operating controls and accessing readily accessible panels and areas in accordance with these Standards of Practice.
    4.31. Readily Accessible: An item or component is readily accessible if, in the judgment of the inspector, it is capable of being safely observed without movement of obstacles, detachment or disengagement of connecting or securing devices, or other unsafe or difficult procedures to gain access.
    4.35. Safety Glazing: Tempered glass, laminated glass, or rigid plastic.
    4.40. Unsafe: A condition in a readily accessible, installed system or component which is judged to be a significant risk of personal injury during normal, day-to-day use. The risk may be due to damage, deterioration, improper installation or a change in accepted residential construction standards. This term is used 4 times in the SoP. The definition implies impact on occupant safety but oddly ALL 4 uses of the word apply to inspector safety. **NONE apply to occupant safety!

OK, who is ready to write an optional “safety” standard.

Good point John, I agree with you on one level. At another level,
I have to consider the real world…

As Kieth Swift states in his book “To Inspect and Protect”, most
inspectors are not sued based on the inspectors contract or SoP,
but are sued for negligence. This is the method most used to
bypass the contract and the SoP protection.

The SoP is a poor defense in court. It’s sad but true. The more
we educate the client to the fact that his health and safety are
their personal responsibility, then we cover ourselves a little more.
I try to mention safety issues when I see them, even though
it may be outside the SoP, it is a common sense point to cover all
your a$$ets.

After reading Keith’s book, I realize that I may need to inform
people even more about some safety issues and the clients need to
take a pro-active responsibility for it.

If you have E&O, then you are not going to court anyway.
If the accusation of negligence can be thrown at you in any form, the
lawyers get paid. The SoP are not much of an obstacle to lawyers…
in the real world of “seek and destroy”.

The SoP portrays the inspector as a ‘generalist’, but the courts
and lawyers skin our hides as ‘experts’ who were negligent.

It seem that the court system is creating a default SoP that
over rides our views of common sense and the proper SoP.
I don’t agree with it, but who am I?


How would the COE play into this?

The CoE is in conflict. The primary objective of the Ethics statement is about the Ethics of sharing report information (at least in my experience elsewhere). Somehow safety got put in as a means of **justifying **revealing report information without client consent.

Safety is not defined in the SOP but unsafe is. The problem is unsafe only applies 4 times to inspectors, not to other people.

Ethics applies to “behavior” and SOP apply to “what you look for”. You are passively creating a “what you look for” requirement in your Ethics. Mr. McKenna was correct in sense when he said the SoP are not looked at. They aren’t because they have too many loop holes.

I can handle a safety requirement but it needs to be much more carefully defined. Once again I suggest a separate SoP for safety as a point of discussion. See my reply to Mr. McKenna.

Condition of property = safety in many areas

If not I will save a lot of time and paper

Good points

Don’t (at this time) see a need to change how I inspect and report


I have the book and need to review it again. The title is problematic unless explained inside. “To protect” what? Someone from buying a money pit? Someone from making unwise financial investment? Someone from personal injury. All have totally different considerations. Let me review the book

They are sued for negligence to comply with a Standard. The SoP is your cornerstone. The more you use it the stronger it becomes.

I disagree and so will many insurance companies and lawyers. TREC is required by law to agree with you if you are in compliance. It is a way to USE the regulatory agency.

YOU are assuming their responsibility when you exceed the SoP. You are creating your own doom by providing unclear expectations.

“Try” is not an option if you keep exceeding the SoP. If you report safety you must be consistent and have a proccedure that aids your compliance with the SoP. The courts do not accept “Try”.

As I said the book may be contributing to false expectations but you have the point. You need to inform people about safety. How? Offer an optional product and or provide a safety checksheet to them. The SoP are very unclear on safety.

“IF you define the expecation they will beleive”

You are one hell of a good inspector that, like all of us, are letting other people define the product. The largest group of persons improperly defining the
product is inspectors themselves.

Lets clean up the CoE and SoP and define safety more clearly.

It can be done. Here is an example. ALL SoP depart from asbestos and now mold. It seems to be holding up well. Why? Because everyone complies with the SoP. In Texas that was made easy because to inspect for mold and asbestos you have to be licensed by a different agency. The limitation is accepted by lawyers.

Lawyers have a hard time penetrating clearly defined limitations and will have a harder time ignoring a clearly defined optional requirement.

Another Texas example. Septic (OSSF) systems, wells and sprinkler systems are optional in Texas SoP. You do not have to do them. You are not required by law to disclose that, although most inspectors I know state the limitation. I am very confortable that a septic system complaint is defensible, especially with the attorneys at TREC that will review the complaint.

“IF you define the expectation they will believe”. TAKE control of your business.


Condition does not = safety. Safety, in a partial sense, is a **result **of condition.

Condition is affected by installation, deterioration and performance. Thats all, just those 3.

Safety is a broad topic. Many inspectors exceed the SoP and compare homes to modern codes or standards. That has nothing to do with pre-existing acceptable installation, deterioration and performance.

When you compare to modern code you exceed the SoP that says you do not have to do it.

I too exceed the SoP in some areas but the practice exposes me to greater liability. I am sure you could find something in my report or I in yours that exceed safety and can be argued you should have done it because you did it else where in the report.

Industry uniformity is a significant key to controlling liability.


All good stuff, well thought out and very helpful. What tends to happen in real life somewhat circumvents all of the best laid plans though. For instance, lawyers already know that we will attempt to use our SoP as a shield in our defense, so they don’t attack us there. Instead, they pay another inspector to testify against you claiming that the majority of inspections performed in your area normally exceed the SoP. You are then no longer judged against your SoP but against an arbitrary level of care that they establish, which includes all of the things they say you missed. Its a vicious circle no doubt.


As an reply to John Bowman’s question as to a specific verse in our COE, the verbiage is plain and worthwhile.

It deals with the confidentiality of the inspection report, except as may be required by law (law always trumps the SOP and COE), and otheres where, I believe, an obvious safety issue is apparent. For instance, I think we should notify the homeowner if his/her deck is pulling away from their house, or is the drop wire is burning.

That was my read on it also. I agree 100% with your post.

John, thanks for starting a dialogue. This is exactly what we need. As to the title of my book, there’s no hidden meaning or deep wisdom. One word rhymed with the other, I needed a title, and I thought it sounded catchy, that’s all.

Exactly " Instead, they pay another inspector to testify against you claiming that the majority of inspections performed in your area normally exceed the SoP. You are then no longer judged against "
They also have the advantage of using your inspection where we have gone in with no knowledge and have to find what we can in a limited time .
The second inspector will have unlimited time and will see what we have reported .
They will also concentrate on other areas that might not been accessable when we where inspecting.

Every one should have a coppy of Mr. Swift’s book
Roy Cooke


**Could you please list some common safety issues the we as
inspectors can look at, step over, ignore… and how the SoP
will protect us? Please be specific and tell me how the injury
that follows an unsafe condition will not be my responsibility.
Then, with your permission, may we look at it from the real world view
of what a lawyer will do with your examples?

The SoP is a defense, but like you say… things need cleaned up and
improved… and to only rely on a shield with holes in it, is not wise…IMHO.

Not to mention the fact… at the time the client and lawyer get
together to sue you, the lawyers goal is to file a complaint that
will be acceptable enough to get the process started. The lawyer
may even know he has a bad case, but the E&O company will
will pay-up anyway.


The insurance companies compile…then safeguard and protect from disclosure…the real numbers, but logically speaking…here are a few factors to consider.

Law suits that go to court are rare. Even E&O salesmen admit this. Most are settled out of court.

“Negligence” is the means of collecting punitive damages which would exceed the actual damages. Thus, it only makes sense that a lawyer going for the biggest check he can get (from which to collect his 30% contingency fee) will allege negligence to go after the bigger reward…when there is E&O in the equation. When there is not, negligence becomes a non-issue, and settlement efforts are made to collect a portion for actual loss.

In cases where E&O is not there to motivate a claim of negligence and request for punitive damages…and where the likelihood of a case actually going to trial is lessened even more than the few that actually do…I think that there is more emphasis placed upon the agreement and the SOP.

Accordingly, the agreement and SOP are important.

Now, should you be foolish enough to advertise that you somehow “exceed the SOP”, it would not matter what it read. You are stuck with whatever interpretation that your client and the court want to assign to “exceed” up to and including the discovery of hidden or latent issues. But that’s another argument…

Good points, James.

“Exceed” is arbitrary. Our SOP, for the most part, is not.

The safety aspects of the inspection cannot be overstated in their importance. While you may get sued for missing a leaking pool, you almost assuredly will get sued when a child drowns and you didn’t point out that the $5 lock on the pool gate wasn’t working.

If you believe that then the SoP need to be rewritten with much more emphasis and clarity on safety or an optional SoP developed. The current NACHI SoP understate safety.

Pool inspections are beyond the scope of ASHI, CREIA, AHIA, TAREI, IG, NABIE, NAHI (pardon me) and NACHI. There is no requirement to look at the pool or the gate. The padlock is as irrelavent to home inspection as asbestos and lead paint.

Well we can roll over and continue to expand our service to oblivian or we can fight back with alternative products the client chooses AND pays for.

From the NACHI SOP, what pray tell is an unreasonable risk. NO Pool fence? Lack of GFCI’s? Transite vent pipe? Lead paint?

I disagree. It is not plain. It implies there is a requirement to inspect for safety where such is not clearly defined in the SoP. It is a loop hole a lawyer can drive a truck through. Your SoP and Ethics are causing the problem.

A deck pulling away from a home and a drop wire burning are two good examples of imminent risk items. The problem is you leave the door open for ALL safety items to be included. There are many types of safety and priorities. NACHI does not define them.

Do you want the inspection to assure safety in a home? Then change your scope and defintions to clearly state that. IF protecting the consumer is your argument then make the requirement clear and simple for the consumer and attorney to see.

Good observation Mr. Kelly. Unreasonable is an ambiguous word that attorneys hang you with.

HOWEVER that only applies to those items required for inspection by the SoP.

On the other hand I think NACHI SoP **do not require **inspection of any of your examples.

NO Pool fence? Pools and fences not required by SoP
*Lack of GFCI’s? *Comparing home to new code not required by SoP
*Transite vent pipe? *Asbestos not required by SoP
*Lead paint? *Lead not required by SoP

In these cases I would argue “unreasonable” does not apply. Sure an attorney will argue they do; sure an E&O provider will settle. I believe you can defend yourself with the SoP on these matters.

IF you believe the SoP offers no defense then I motion to abandon them in their entirety and simply inspect as a prudent inspector would.