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Kaplan ITA's Monthly Inspection Tips - Free Electronic Newsletter

February, 2005
Home Inspectors - Advocates with a Fiduciary Duty?
Issue #34

Dear Inspector,

I often hear home inspectors say they are advocates and have a fiduciary duty to their clients. This month I would like to discuss these terms and our duties as home inspectors. I realize some may disagree with me and that is fine. I am presenting my non-attorney opinion based upon my many years of inspecting and working with attorneys. Should anyone have discussion feel free to email me.

Let's start by including the definitions, from "Webster's Unabridged" of the terms:

ad·vo·cate (v. adÆvà k!tÅ; n. adÆvà kit, -k!tÅ), v., -cat·ed, -cat·ing, n.

  1. to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly: He advocated higher salaries for teachers.
  2. a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually fol. by of): an advocate of peace.
  3. a person who pleads for or in behalf of another; intercessor.
  4. a person who pleads the cause of another in a court of law.
    -Syn.2. champion, proponent, backer. 4. lawyer, attorney, counselor, counsel; barrister; solicitor.

fi·du·ci·ar·y (fi dÁÆsh" erÅ", -dyÁÆ-), n., pl. -ar·ies, adj.

  1. Law. a person to whom property or power is entrusted for the benefit of another.
  2. Law. of or pertaining to the relation between a fiduciary and his or her principal: a fiduciary capacity; a fiduciary duty.
  3. of, based on, or in the nature of trust and confidence, as in public affairs: a fiduciary obligation of government employees.
  4. depending on public confidence for value or currency, as fiat money.

It seems pretty clear to me that home inspectors are not advocates. We are consultants and advisors. Advocates write in support of something or someone. Home inspectors should provide an unbiased opinion of the property, regardless of who may be their client. We provide neutral opinions, based upon our training and experience regarding a property for informational purposes, not advocacy.

I believe home inspectors have a contractual duty to their clients. That is, to perform an inspection that meets or exceeds the standards identified in the contract. If an oral contract (not recommended) then the inspector still has a contractual duty to peform at minimum to local industry standards. Persons with a fiduciary duty typically act as agents and/or have some involvement with the financial aspects of a deal. Home inspectors should not be involved in any of the financial dealings as that would remove the neutrality of the engagement.

We'll talk next month,

Michael Casey
Kaplan Professional Schools

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