Welcome to NYSAHI
NYSAHI is the Voice of the Home Inspection Profession in the Empire State.
NYSAHI’s mission is to further public confidence in and trustful reliance on regulated Home Inspection by promoting high standards of professionalism, expertise, and ethical conduct. NYSAHI shall work to advance consumer protection through Home Inspection and generally represent and advocate for NYS licensed practitioners.
NYSAHI is a true not-for-profit and all-volunteer organization. We have no paid Board of Directors or executives profiting from our activities. All funds are used to achieve our Mission. The Board is made up of prominent Home Inspectors who are devoted to protecting and advancing the profession. They are selected to represent the various regions and markets of NY.
Membership in NYSAHI is open to all NYS licensed Home Inspectors. Join NYSAHI
Annual dues from Sustaining Members, through their regional/local professional organization, or individually, is our primary revenue. Inexpensive investment in dues supports our varied activities and initiatives including:
- Government and trend watchdog
- Advocacy and lobbying
- Bill monitoring
- Continuing Education
- Facilitation of professional association communications & sharing
- Broadcast Bulletins and Alerts
- Informational articles and website
- New inspector mentoring…
NYSAHI works to keep Home Inspectors prepared and represented in a way that few individuals have the resources to do for themself.
Articles of Interest
Click the links below to see our articles of interest:
- Why a Buyer Needs a Home Inspection (PDF)
- HUD Form recommending a home inspection (PDF)
A3714 / S5097 MADE LAW - Another Step in the Right Direction?
This bill, signed by the Governor into law in December 2022 and effective in June of 2023, amends the NYS Real Property Law and adds a required disclosure, by the Seller to the Buyer in the modified Property Condition Disclosure (PCD), of indoor mold history upon the sale of Residential Real Property (generally1-4 unit “Homes” inspected within our license. This does not apply to Condos, Cooperative Apartments, and “Property on a Homeowner’s Association that is not in fee simple by the Seller”). It adds the question: “HAS THE PROPERTY BEEN TESTED FOR INDOOR MOLD? YES NO UNKN (IF YES, ATTACH A COPY OF THE REPORT)”.
It is important to note that detection and reporting of mold is specifically excluded in our NYS Home Inspection Standards of Pracatice. However, many Inspectors offer inspection for mold as Mold Assessors.
Some observations about NY Property Condition Disclosures…
In certain locales (for instance Downstate) a PCD is not commonly available at the time of inspection. In locales that generally require a purchase agreement prior to inspection, the PCD is often part of that paperwork. Some Home Inspectors make it their practice to request a copy of the PCD for review prior to an inspection. By this, Inspectors can be alerted to issues identified by the Seller and also might give their Buyer Client a head’s up where inspection observations differ from the Seller’s statements in the PCD.
While PCD law provisions, along with adding mold to the list of required disclosures, appear to be aimed at consumer protection of a home Buyer, New York’s Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) policy in a home sale still reigns. What might have been very effective protection of a Buyer in creating the PCD was substantially weakened by modification of provisions as it was made NYS Law. The Seller’s diclosures in answering the PCD questions had originally been required to be based on constructive knowledge (what they should know). This was changed to actual knowledge (what they actually do know at time of signing). By that change, a Seller is not required to investigate anything to complete the PCD fundamentally changing their level of responsibility. It can be a major challenge to prove what a Seller actually did know at the time of signing to make a case of fraud where a Seller might be held liable for damages for an intentional misrepresentation.
Another weakness of the PCD law is that a Seller can avoid providing a PCD by paying just $500 to the Buyer at closing. $500 is a pittance relative to the value of most homes and the cost of major repairs. The Seller can side-step PCD liability by simply paying that. Failure of a Seller to provide a PCD, however, can be seen in itself as a cue to look even more closely for substantial undisclosed issues.
Various exclusions in the law provide that PCDs are not required in circumstances such as estate sales where the Seller is a fiduciary administrator for the estate, or in a sale due to forclosure, etc. In these cases the Seller would generally not have been in residence and would not be expected to be familiar with a home’s condition.
On the bright side, the PCD can be used by the Seller to move a problem with their home up front in the sale so that it is disclosed and represented as already incorporated into their asking price. This act can build trust between Buyer and Seller and limit Seller liability, easing the sale process. Otherwise a substantial undisclosed issue found in a Home Inspection can become a matter of contention and negotiation that could delay closing or kill the deal.
Whether a PCD is provided or not, this law does not relieve a Buyer from the responsibility of due diligence in making the purchase. Getting a Home Inspection is an essential element of that effort.
New York’s Property Condition Disclosure law was conceived as a strong tool for consumer protection. Adding mold to its list of questions does not do much to correct its enfeeblements.
Home Inspection remains a Home Buyer’s best protection. That is why NYSAHI strongly advocates for a NYS Right to Home Inspection Law.
This article is provided for general information only and to engage the reader in learning more about the subject. It was not written by or reviewed by an attorney and should in no way be considered to be a legal opinion or legal advice or relied on as such. Consult an attorney for any legal opinion or advice.
Consideration of Winter Conditions in Home Inspection
Consideration of Winter Conditions in Home Inspection
Modern design standards use ground snow load records and accepted safety factors to engineer house structures for high reliability. This is because snow load on structures is a principal cause of structural collapse. Most homes in our area are designed to support a 20-pound snow-load. This loading can be exceeded by less than 2’ of snow! We are encountering more frequent extreme winter weather events. The Buffalo, NY area has had multiple recent incidents of snow accumulation of 4-6 feet! Inspecting for structural weaknesses that may make a home susceptible to damage from winter conditions and educating your Client to understand the threat of heavy snow and ice on their home may save lives and help safeguard against catastrophic property loss.
Warning Signs of Structural Failure
- Heavy snow/ice accumulation often causes cracks in the finishes of walls and ceilings and causes doors and windows to bind. These conditions should be investigated by a professional inspector. Hearing loud cracking noises during a high accumulation event is a danger sign.
- The density of 1 ft.² of snow is about 1 to 1.5 pounds. It is important to know however, that snow accumulation becomes increasingly dense with depth. The weight of a square foot of snow 6” deep is about 7.5 pounds. The weight of 48” of snow is eight times that (~60 lbs). However, snow compacts as it accumulates so the design weight used in engineering for 4 feet of snow is 117 psf!
- Snow has varying liquid water content and some accumulated snow can be very heavy when the water content is high. Cold fluffy snow may weigh around 7 psf. Really wet snow can weigh 4 times that. Rain falling on accumulated snow is also a condition of concern as the density of the accumulation and the resulting weight on structures can rise dramatically in a short period of time before the snow has an opportunity to melt.
Raftered Roof Structures
- The strength of a rafter roof system depends not only on the dimensions, spacing and condition of the rafters, but also on their connections at top and bottom. Rafters should be directly opposed and tied together against separation with collar ties at maximum 4’ on center. Equally important is the connection of the rafters below. Perhaps the strongest connection is when the opposing rafter bottoms are fastened to an attic floor structural member running between them creating a stable triangle. Potentially weak conditions can arise in attics when rafters bear on an exterior attic wall above attic floor level and there is no structural member directly tying the opposing rafter bottoms together. Symptoms of this condition are bellied ridgelines and bulging of the eave line.
Truss Roof Structures
- Trusses should be installed according to an engineered design that is not likely available at the time of inspection. However, the installation should be checked for common issues that can result in structural weakness. These include removal or modification of truss web components, rot or other damage to any part of a truss, substandard lumber with knots or other defects, inadequate connection to exterior walls, etc.
Roof Deck Issues
- Check for sag between rafters that can result from things such as missing H-clips, span exceeding the rating of sheathing (check the stamp), moisture damage from leaks or poor attic ventilation, sheathing installed in thewrong orientation (the long dimension should be parallel to the eaves for strength), etc. Decks can fail from heavy loads especially from the added weight of persons doing snow removal.
- Roof structural integrity can be jeopardized when one side of the roof has a substantially greater load than the other. This is an especially important consideration in events of heavy accumulation of snow/ice. Winds can cause one side of a roof to be bare while at the same time depositing heavy snow loads on the other. If both sides of the roof have heavy snow loads requiring removal, it is important to balance the removal so that the snow load on one side is not much greater than the other.
- Heavy snow loads may need to be removed to protect a home. This can be a dangerous endeavor from things such as ladder accidents, slippery roof surfaces, sliding snow loads, etc. Roofs can also be damaged resulting in need for repair and/or leaks. Great caution should be used, and consideration given to hiring that work out to a qualified contractor. When removing snow, it should not be scraped down to the roof surface. The important thing is to remove weight. It is generally best not to chip ice, but rather, to get the snow off of it so it has a chance to melt.
- Steeper roofs tend to hold less snow than those with low pitch (generally below 4:12). Special attention should be paid to the structural integrity of low slope roof areas. Ledger attachment, rafter connections, rafter dimensions, etc. should be given close scrutiny.
Sliding Snow Loads
- Snow loads, especially on metal roofs, can slide in a mass and be very dangerous and damaging. Metal roofs should have roof jacks to resist sliding snow. In the condition where a steeper slope roof discharges onto a low slope roof below, a heavy sliding snow load may structurally damage the lower roof potentially leading to collapse. Persons can be seriously injured, and substantial property damage can result from sliding snow loads.
- Lack of adequate attic ventilation and attic floor insulation can be very damaging to a home and contribute to accumulation of heavy snow and ice loads. Properly constructed attics have a continuous flow of air along the underside of the roof deck and insulation in the attic floor adequate to prevent excessive heat rising to the underside of the roof deck. This results in the underside and the top side of the roof being at approximately the same temperature so that snow is less likely to stick to the cold roof surface and accumulate, and when it does accumulate is less likely to melt. Poor ventilation and insulation results in the eaves being much colder than the roof surfaces above the heated spaces. Snow melts in the upper heated areas and runs down to the eaves where it encounters the cold condition and freezes. Ice continues to the build up there and that ice works its way into the roofing materials and structures often causing serious damage. Keep in mind the requirements for adhered roofing underlayment that is designed to protect against this. Ice is also heavy, imposing potentially damaging loads at the eaves and the growth of sometimes enormous icicles that not only can cause major damage to the soffits, gutters, etc., but also pose an imminent hazard to persons and property. Removing large accumulations of ice is dangerous in many ways.
Inaccessible Fuel Shut-Offs
- Large accumulations of snow and ice coming off the eaves of the roof can cover exterior shut off valves on natural gas feeds to homes and can cover propane and fuel oil tanks. Location of these items below the eaves of a roof is a poor choice that should be reported. Clients should be reminded of the importance of maintaining access to fuel shutoffs in case of emergency.
Iced-over Natural Gas Regulators
- Regulators on natural gas supplies to homes act to vent overpressure gas to the exterior environment through the screened outlet in the regulator. If regulators become iced over or buried in heavy snow they may cease to provide protection against overpressure gas to the appliances in the house which can be very hazardous. Make sure your Clients understand how important it is to keep the area around a gas regulator clear.
Share this information with your Client during a Home Inspection, even in the Summer!
…and don’t forget to point out the vigilant winter maintenance required by steep driveways
Download of this article PDF here
Do-It-Yourself Radon Monitor Liabilities
Do It Yourself Radon Monitors (DIYRM) are now readily available for sale to the public and have become increasingly popular. Homeowners are using these devices to measure radon levels in homes they own or wish to buy. There are multiple liabilities for licensed Home Inspectors related to these DIY monitors…
First, some shortfalls of various DIYRM:
- They do not have a self-diagnostic feature. That means that the DIYRM cannot conduct essential diagnostics before each test to ensure that they are working correctly.
- Homeowners/Buyers generally do not follow professional test protocol and their test results are not reliable.
- No interruption of power detection. User might rely on readings when the RM may not have been recording for some period.
- Lack of security features to detect tampering or disturbance.
- Some manufacturers recommend monitoring a location for at least 2 months with their units to get a good radon level measurement. These devices may not be suited for the typical short-term 2–4-day sampling required in a real estate transaction.
- DIYRM require routine re-calibration to maintain their ability to monitor radon levels with any accuracy. Homeowners are not likely to bother with this (if that is even available for their device).
- Also, some do not have software that is compatible with newer smart phones. Always check monitor/phone compatibility before purchasing any radon measurement device.
While these devices may provide some information to Homeowners about radon in their homes, decisions about the safety of the home’s living environment and about installation of costly radon mitigation systems are best made with measurements taken by certified professionals who use approved and reliable devices according to accepted protocol.
As for Home Inspector liability…
Any Home Inspector recommending or selling these devices may be liable if that device or the way it is used results in inaccurate information. A Client may rightfully expect that if they buy a unit from a licensed Home Inspector, they can rely on it when they use it for testing a home. Clients and purchasers are not likely to follow, or even be aware of, proper radon testing protocol. This, in combination with using uncertified and/or uncalibrated DIY units, can yield results that do not reliably reflect a home’s actual radon level. If the resulting level is low, they may think their home is safe when if might not be. If high, they might install an unnecessary and costly mitigation system.
Who will they blame? You could be on the hook for the cost of subsequent professional testing and/or the cost of installing a mitigation system. Worse, sued for a cancer death! Electronic devices are often made in other countries. A device manufacturer located outside of the US cannot be easily sued, leaving the Home Inspector as a likely first defendant in a lawsuit. HI liability and E&O insurance policies probably don’t insure selling these devices (…and that practice also undermines the home inspection profession by promoting non-professional self-testing). Being sued with no insurance backing to provide defense and cover settlement/award costs is no place to be!
DIYRM are continuous radon measurement devices. CRM must be approved by NYSDOH and calibrated by a New York State ELAP approved lab for them to be used in a real estate transaction.
An ELAP (Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program) approved lab is required to comply with NYS Dept. of Health and nationally accredited programs for operation of their calibration facilities and testing and must maintain a formal quality assurance/control program. Most DIYRM companies that calibrate their devices are not an ELAP approved lab. Using unapproved DIYRM for testing homes is outside of NYS regulations and may very well not be covered by HI insurance policies. Home Inspectors using non-compliant devices can also be subject to NYSDOH penalties.
We have been advised that the NYS Department of Health requests that the use of DIYRM for radon measurement in real estate transactions by licensed Home Inspectors be reported for investigation.
Reports should be made to: firstname.lastname@example.org
or (518) 402-7556
If you encounter homes being monitored for radon by these devices, warn your Clients and others about these issues and recommend that they only rely on radon testing by qualified professionals when making important health related decisions.
*** NYSAHI publications are not prepared by attorneys and do not provide legal advice. Consult a NYS licensed attorney for any legal advice. ***
Are you collecting sales tax? (..and doing it properly)
NOTICE: This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not written or reviewed by a licensed attorney or accounting professional. It is intended to raise awareness of Home Inspector responsibilities under NYS Law and to help them comply and navigate potential liabilities. Consultation with a qualified attorney and accountant is highly recommended. Do not rely solely on the lay opinions and advice offered here.
The short story on sales tax in home inspection is that it must be collected whenever home inspections or related inspections or tests are done for any entity other than a Buyer. Your inspection work for Buyers is generally exempt from sales tax. You must have Authority from NYS to collect sales tax and it must be properly collected and reserved, and then reported and paid to the State periodically and on time. Anything else will subject you to fines and/or penalties, in some cases severe. More detailed information follows.
According to The Quick Reference Guide for Taxable and Exempt Property and Services - Tax Bulletin ST-740 (TB-ST-740)
, examples of taxable services, and transactions that are subject to sales tax include: “certain information services “ and “maintaining, servicing, and repairing real property”
For the service of Home Inspection, we refer to:
STATE OF NEW YORK DEPARTMENT OF TAXATION AND FINANCE, ADVISORY OPINION, PETITION NO. S891031A, 3/21/1990
“The issue raised… is whether charges paid for "home inspection services" are subject to sales and use tax.” The description of the situation states that “No repair services are performed by the inspector. The written report is provided only to the client. The purchaser of the inspection service generally relies on the inspection report to decide if further price adjustments are necessary before purchase of the residence or if repair of the deficiencies is necessary.”
The service of inspecting and providing a home inspection report for a Buyer is a personal information service. “The sale of such report in written form constitutes the rendering of an information service.” The guidance offered in the Advisory is: “..as long as the purchaser of the home inspection service is not the owner of the real property which is the subject of the home inspection report, the charge paid by the purchaser for the report will not be subject to sales tax
as a charge for maintaining, servicing or repairing real property, property or land.” Information services to property owners, including analysis and reports, are considered to be part of property maintenance.
Two conditions for the Buyer sales tax exemption are stated:
- “…the report pertains only to the particular premises being purchased by the particular client…” and because of this “…is considered to be uniquely personal or individual in nature…”.
- (Emphasized) The resulting report “… is not or may not be substantially incorporated in reports furnished to other persons …”. “The report furnished to the buyer client meets this condition in that the data and analysis contained in the report is furnished only to the client, is not furnished to other persons and has value for a very limited period of time.”
Takeaways from this opinion include:
The sales tax exemption only applies to services provided to a Buyer.
Home inspection services for a Seller/Homeowner are subject to sales tax because the Tax Law considers the service to them to be for “… maintaining, servicing or repairing real property, property or land.” Sales tax must be collected by Home Inspectors for performance of services for a Seller/Homeowner.
A sales tax exempt inspection report may not be duplicated for distribution to others, and information from it may not be substantially
compiled or analyzed into a related report for distribution to any other. Entire reports should not be distributed or shared with the Listing Agent, Seller/Homeowner, any other prospective buyer, or others.
We can construe from this Advisory that the other tests and services that we provide where reports are generated for a Buyer are also sales tax exempt if the two cited conditions are met.
Business Hygiene Actions Items to Consider:
Keep it Personal.
- Collect NYS Sales Tax when it is due. "You may be subject to fines and a jail sentence, if you: … willfully fail to collect state and local sales tax required to be collected." (Also, State and Local Sales Taxes should be separately identified on a bill, statement, or receipt)
- If you do not already have NYS Sales Tax Authority, Get It! You may be subject to civil penalties if you sell taxable services without a Certificate of Authority. Penalties are "up to $500 for the first day on which sales or purchases are made, plus up to $200 for each subsequent day, not to exceed $10,000." (The COA must be prominently posted in your place of business.)
- Pay collected sales tax to NYS on time. Sales tax collected must be kept in a specific account and a report with payment to NYS made quarterly (annual payment may sometimes be authorized).
Make sure your agreement with a Buyer Client emphasizes that the home inspection and any related tests/inspections are provided as a personal information service under NYS Law. They are for the Client’s personal use only
for consideration of and any negotiation for the purchase of the subject property, and accordingly Client agrees that they shall not duplicate or substantially share the information from the inspections/tests/reports with any other and shall indemnify you (cover any loss or damage to you) should they do so or allow it. Make it clear that they are only allowed to share selected excerpts from your reports and only as necessary for negotiation.
This will also help guard against any others using your hard work for free and against the potential of calls to you down the road, from persons with whom you have no business relationship, perhaps requesting information or making complaints about a report. Your reports for a Buyer are NOT for the use of any other for any purpose!
Do not give your reports to anyone other than you Client.
Keep the Client responsible for control of the documents and for any improper sharing. You defeat any contractual protections if you enable sharing. DO NOT send the report to Realtors or others.
If requested to do so tell them they must get any inspections/tests/reports directly from your Client.
Include warnings on your reports
(every page if possible) advising that they are prepared for the use of your Client only, that copying or distribution in any form is strictly prohibited, that use by other than the Client for any purpose is strictly prohibited, that others that might use the information in the reports do so at their own risk and you bear no responsibility to them for anything whatsoever.
Educate your Buyer Client.
Make sure they understand their contractual obligations to control the inspection information and reports.
NYS Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, NYSERDA, is responsible for the implementation of the NYS Advanced Building Codes - Appliance and Equipment Efficiency Standards Act of 2022
. This initiative
sets “...minimum energy and water efficiency requirements for residential and commercial products and appliances to help maintain performance and quality while reducing energy and/or water consumption.”
The purpose of the Act is to meet our Greenhouse Gas reduction goal and to provide consumers the benefits of product and appliance efficiency. The first standards take effect on June 26, 2023. Some residential products included in this first batch of standards include: Faucets, Toilets, Shower heads, Gas Fireplaces, Ventilation Fans… They are required to be listed in the States Appliances Standards Database (SASD), available on-line, that as of this date has 31,385 individually certified appliances that meet the new standards. “Any manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or installer selling, leasing, or renting non compliant products may be subject to enforcement penalties. “
Receive program updates from NYSERDA:
Determination of compliance of installed products or appliances is not a requirement under NYS Home Inspection Standards of Practice. But, a knowledgeable Inspector should be familiar with the sweeping Green Energy programs to help keep Clients informed.
Board of Directors
NYSAHI is a volunteer organization. The NYSAHI Board of Directors is made up of:
Henrey Jetty – NYSAHI President
(GRAHI – Genesee Regional Alliance of Home Inspectors)
Larry Ames – NYSAHI Secretary
(President, STAHI – Southern Tier Association of Home Inspectors)
Mitchell Allen – NYSAHI Treasurer
(Long Island Area)
(NYSAHI Past President, Central NY Region)
(Vice President, STAHI – Southern Tier Association of Home Inspectors)
NYS Government Information
Department of State
The following are useful links to New York State:
DOS Home Inspector General Information page
- General DOS information on home inspectors and licensing
NYS Home Inspector License Law PDF
- PDF of full text of NYS licensing law on DOS site
NYS Home Inspectors and Mold
- NYS Department of Labor page on home inspectors and mold. If you discuss mold in your reports, it would be best if you become a NYS-licensed mold assessor.
NYS Radon testing site
Radon testing in NYS is not currently a licensed activity, meaning anyone can do it. This could change...
New York State Bills and Laws
Search for NY State Bills
Contact Your Legislator
Click here for the Assembly
members pages where you can search for your representatives by zip code, find phone numbers and mailing addresses or send an email.
Our Positions and history
(Click on heading to expand)
NYSAHI Advocates for a Right to Home Inspection Law
The purchase of a home is for most the greatest or among the greatest investment(s) they may make in
their lifetime. Few Home Buyers have the knowledge and experience to realistically evaluate a house
to determine its condition and safety, or to project substantial expenses for repair or replacement that
are likely to be required in the near term. This is why the profession of Home Inspector exists. New
York’s business policy of Buyer Beware substantially relieves the Seller of the burden of revealing
issues with a home and a Buyer is expected to perform due diligence in evaluating a home prior to
closing. Almost all Buyers have to rely on professional evaluation of a home to responsibly do that.
Recent Market trends have increasingly led to situations where Buyers are discouraged from getting a
Home Inspection. Realtors may advise that to have any chance of being accepted in a very competitive
market an offer should be higher than the asking price and with no contingencies. Sellers may even
advertise that offers with a Home Inspection or other contingencies will not be considered. Buyers,
desperate to find a home when there is limited supply and high demand, often have no choice but to
take the big chance that the house for which they put in a high/no-contingency offer is OK. Sellers in
this market can get top dollar for substandard / unsafe / very needy homes.
NYSAHI’s position is that no Buyer should EVER be forced into this position and that their right to a
professional and regulated Home Inspection, with typical associated tests, must be established in NYS
Law so that noone buys a home without the opportunity for essential due diligence. Without an
undeniable legal right to a Home Inspection, Buyers can, without viable options, find themselves
burdened with unsafe/money pit homes that put their/their family’s health, safety and economic
security in jeopardy. The overall result is added strain on an already struggling health system,
bankruptcy, foreclosure, homelessness, ...and none of that is good for our society or economy. This is
why NYSAHI is calling on the NYS Legislature to create a strong Right to Home Inspection law.
How Does My NYS Mandated Liability Insurance Protect Me (and The Public)?
§444-K(1) of the NYS Home Inspection Professional Licensing Act requires that a person applying for a home Inspector license provide proof of their having general liability insurance, and licensed home inspectors are required by that law to maintain that insurance at all times. The law further requires the liability insurance to be made in the coverage minimum amounts of $150,000 per occurrence and $500,000 aggregate.
So, being a newly hatched graduate of the state-mandated 140-hour required training course and having passed the licensing exam, you do a search on the Internet to find “home inspector liability insurance” and find a company that will sell it to you for around 500 bucks. You do the deal and send your application into the State, signed in affirmation that you have the required insurance.
License in hand, you are “good to go” and you hang your shingle on the World Wide Web and work hard to start to grow your business.
You get a call one day from an irate homeowner saying he’s going to sue you because you destroyed his house by causing a major water leak when you tested the whirlpool bath. You explained to him that all you did was fill it with water deep enough to test the whirlpool function, turn the whirlpool thing on to make sure it worked, turned it off and drained the water. If that caused a leak it certainly wasn’t your fault and he should be talking to his homeowner’s insurance carrier. The homeowner says the problem would not have occurred if you hadn’t done what you had done during the inspection and you can expect to hear from his lawyer.
Well, that should be a pain and it could be costly. Better call my liability insurance company.
That did not go very well. After listening to your description of the incident the company representative points out to you the clause in your policy relating to exclusions and the specific exclusion of “Professional Liability”. The rep explains that as licensed home Inspector, you are a professional and you made a professional judgment call to test that whirlpool tub. Anything resulting from that professional judgment should be covered by Professional Liability Insurance, otherwise known as E&O (Errors and Omissions). You are not covered for it by your general liability policy due to that specific exclusion. You point out to the rep that the homeowner’s claim is not even legit and that their homeowner’s insurance should cover it. Can you just call them and straighten it out? The rep explains to you that her company has no obligation to provide any support or defense for you since it is clearly excluded from coverage and that they will not get involved in any way. She wishes you the best and suggests that perhaps you should get a quote from your agent for E&O.
*%$@# !! I thought I was insured!
- Lesson #1: Exclude testing whirlpool tubs as they often leak where you can’t see it. (And because the State SOP excludes it: Not required to…“Observe and report on any spas, saunas, hot-tubs or jetted tubs”
- Lesson #2: Read and understand your insurance policy.
- Lesson #3: You really should not be practicing a profession without E&O coverage.
This particular scenario has reportedly occurred. Twice.
The New York State Association of Home Inspectors (NYSAHI) Board of Directors has had this as a matter of discussion at multiple meetings. Is has been pointed out that it seems right that E&O should insure against failures of professional judgment in reporting and that general liability insurance should rightfully protect against damage to a house that results from the from the physical acts of conducting an inspection. After all, contractors of all types, who are not licensed professionals and do not carry E&O, have general liability insurance that would cover them if they had filled and turned on the whirlpool tub. It seems reasonable for home inspectors to expect the same.
It has also been noted that the State should define more clearly what the mandated general liability insurance should cover. It is apparent that the intent of the law was to protect the public against damage to their homes as a result of a home inspection. As things stand now, the liability insurance offered by some appears to offer little protection of this kind to either the homeowner or the home inspector. That makes buying a liability insurance policy that the State will accept more of an administrative formality and unnecessary expense, whose benefit is only to an insurance company that “clips coupons” collecting annual premiums with little if any exposure to risk of defense cost or payout.
A comment made by a very experienced and successful home inspector, “You get what you pay for”, should serve as a warning to home inspectors. Getting a general liability policy that provides good and expected coverage will certainly be substantially more expensive than one that serves only as a placeholder for licensing. Also, if you are a sole proprietorship or LLC, all your personal assets are on the line in every inspection. Even if you have great general liability insurance, the real professional judgments that you make, that are reflected in your reports and elsewhere, are not insured unless you carry E&O. One bad call can have devastating financial impacts. Even if a claim against you has no merit, you may have to mount a defense, and legal costs can be staggering. Insurance policies provide coverage for defense against claims as well as payment of damages (subject to your deductible and limits).
NYSAHI believes that the State should do a better job of protecting the public by being far more clear in their regulation about the requirements for general liability insurance and what it should cover. However, we do not expect that to happen anytime soon. So, with regard to your general liability insurance policy, we recommend “Buyer Beware!”.
The Perils of Walk-n-talks
Walk-n-talks, also known as "walkthough consultations", are characterized by short duration (perhaps only 30 minutes), usually no contract, no written report and substantially reduced fee, as compared to a full home inspection done per NYS minimum standards. These are often performed by a contractor, but sometimes a licensed home inspector, who walks through a home with a buyer client and discusses various conditions observed.
Walk-n-talks have become more frequent, due to market pressure with limited housing supply. Some involved in selling a home have favored this practice to reach closing quicker in a strong seller’s market. Buyers are attracted to the reduced cost of the “inspection” and because a walk-n-talk can be done at a showing before making an offer. Also, relying on a walk-n-talk, buyers often waive a full home inspection, making their purchase offer more attractive in a competitive environment. Sellers may specifically encourage this in their offers for sale. We were advised that in some places in New York State the practice has become common and is encouraged by real estate industry professionals.
In response to our inquiry to the Department of State, the NYSAHI Board was advised that since there is no written report produced, walk-n-talks are not home inspections under the professional licensing law and thus are not regulated. They also advised that licensed home inspectors are accordingly not prohibited in that law from engaging in walk-n-talks.
After further exploring the practice, we have concluded that walk-n-talks are contrary to the public interest that the NYS Home Inspection Professional Licensing Law was enacted to protect, and that all parties who engage in the practice do so at great risk, especially licensed home inspectors. Following are considerations that have led us to this conclusion:
- There are no professional standards. Licensing does not apply. Any unqualified person may engage in the practice.
- Buyers have limited legal recourse against any unlicensed consultant.
- Even if performed by a licensed home inspector, a walk-n-talk is by far substandard to a State-regulated home inspection. It is not possible to properly evaluate all of the systems of a home in a short walk through. Undisclosed issues and unanticipated expenses are sure to arise after sale.
- Without a written home inspection report a buyer has no professionally documented tool to use as a reliable basis for negotiation and no written documentation of the conversation that happened during the walkthrough.
- There is no Code of Ethics to protect a buyer from from conflicts of interest or collusion among their walk-n-talk consultant and others on the seller's side.
- Walk-n-talks fast-track the home buying process, shorting due diligence at a time when it is most needed for a life-changing major investment.
Realtors, Lawyers, Mortgage Brokers
- Accepting a purchase offer where a home inspection is waived, especially if in any way encouraged by the seller, can expose the seller to a claim for damages resulting from undocumented defects and/or those not detected in a walk-n-talk. Did the seller prevent the buyer from exercising due diligence? Did the seller imply that waiving the inspection contingency was a requirement of sale? A full home inspection protects both buyer and seller.
Licensed Home Inspectors
- Professionals practicing within a real estate transaction can be named in legal actions if they in any way recommend a walk-n-talk in lieu of a full home inspection or encourage a buyer to waive a home inspection. Realtors especially have a duty to both buyer and seller to recommend a home inspection prior to sale.
- Any inspection you perform without a written report is very likely not covered by your insurance. Without a report, that service is not considered a home inspection, which is your insured business. Your company and perhaps all your personal assets are on the line.
- As a licensed professional you are held to a higher standard under the law. Regardless of anything you say or agree to, a buyer has a rightful expectation to trust you to protect them from buying a house with undisclosed defects. Will you find them all in a half-hour?
- Without a written Home Inspection report, any legal action against you may be based on hearsay. This can place you at a considerable disadvantage and in an indefensible position in court.
- Providing a walk-n-talk could be tantamount to encouraging the buyer to purchase a home without a proper home inspection exposing you to substantial liability.
- A walk-n-talk performed without a contract further increases liability.
- Lawsuits against home inspectors involved in walk-n-talks are reportedly on the rise...
We have come to believe that the practice of walk-n-talks is contrary to the public interest and the spirit of the law that established our profession which recognizes that "A home inspection has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all home buyers"*. We also believe that licensed home inspectors engaging in such practice undermine the credibility of our profession by offering an unreliable and far inferior service as compared to a home inspection conducted in accordance within the NYS Standards of Practice. We remind you all that "In performing home inspection services, home inspectors shall adhere to the highest principles of ethical conduct."* We do not believe it is ethical for a home inspector to engage in this questionable practice because buyers may reasonably, but in ignorance, rely on a walk-n-talk conducted by a licensed home inspector to be equivalent to a true full home inspection.
* As per NYS Home Inspection Code of Ethics
NYSAHI was instrumental in changing the NYS Licensing Exam
Licensing for home inspectors in New York State came into being in 2006. For years after that, against the grindingly slow halls of congress, NYSAHI sponsored a bill amending the licensing law to require that the original, absurdly easy, State-offered exam, which did not meet the State's own requirements for a psychoimetrically valid exam, be replaced by the National Home Inspector Exam (NHIE). In November of 2019, our bill was finally signed into law (the first change to the licensing law since it took effect).
A mere 4 months later, language was inserted into the 2020 budget proposal to amend the law once more to allow the DOS to accept either exam, much to our chagrin. Our lobbtist contacted members in the senate delegation to oppose this 180-degree change in the governor's position and the line item was subsequently changed to read as follows (underlined is new text):
Section 1. Paragraph (c) of subdivision 1 of section 444-e of the real
23 property law, as amended by chapter 541 of the laws of 2019, is amended
24 to read as follows:
25 (c) have passed the National Home Inspector examination or an examina-
26 tion offered by the secretary. Any examination offered by the secretary
27 must meet or exceed the national exam standards set by the Examination
28 Board of Professional Home Inspectors in consultation with the New York
29 State Association of Home Inspectors to include questions related to
30 state-specific procedures, rules, and regulations, and changes to state
31 and federal law, and be updated annually; and
32 § 2. This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply to appli-
33 cations for a license as a professional home inspector received on or
34 after November 25, 2019.
(See the new law on nysenate.gov here: https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/RPP/444-E, paragraph (c)
So NYSAHI is memorialized in the NYS home inspector licensing law.
The DOS hired a point person with a background in education and exam psychometrics to spearhead the creation of a new exam. In her own words regarding the original exam: "This exam sucks". To that end, three NYSAHI board members served as subject matter experts to help with the development of a new test, which is now being offered. The new test is psychometrically valid and is continually updated. For example, if everyone gets a particular question right or wrong, the question is tossed. License applicants can still take the NHIE (the exam required by ASHI) if they prefer, although the main complaint about the NHIE is that it is not NYS-specific.
Initial Training Requirements
Low standards for attaining and maintaining a Home Inspector license are a disservice to individual inspectors, the profession, and consumers of inspection services. NYSAHI has performed various surveys and has found that the majority of home inspectors agree that harm to the public perception of this profession could result from weak standards.
During the regulatory development period following enactment of the Home Inspection Professional License law, the New York Department of State (DOS) consistently expressed and acted upon a concern that certain provisions of the law could unfairly limit individuals from being able to attain licensure. This continues to be a guiding concern for the DOS and has resulted in weak initial educational requirements, minimal continuing education requirements, and a Mod 5 (field training) that clearly does not meet the requirements of the law for true on-site, and real-life training. The facts show that this concern on the part of the DOS is totally without basis. At least 10 other states have requirements more stringent than New York, including New Jersey, where reciprocity would be out of the question. New York inspectors who wish to work in New Jersey currently have to obtain a separate license under more stringent conditions.
Consumers believe that a New York State license is their assurance of a properly trained and knowledgeable professional. Under the present law, nothing could be further from the truth. Despite the massive, multidisciplinary knowledge base required to perform a proper residential inspection for the most important and expensive purchase that most people make in their lifetimes, and despite the many life threatening safety concerns that can exist in homes, the hours of training to become a home inspector are a small fraction of those required by cosmetologists, barbers or hearing aid dispensers. The 140 hours of education and training pale by comparison with the 2,000 hours of training required of real estate appraisers, whose base of required technical knowledge is minimal compared to the home inspection profession. Unfortunately for the consumer, the minimal requirements for a home inspector license are incongruous with the responsibilities of a professional home inspector.
It is clear to those of us in the profession that the present 140 hours of training are woefully inadequate to provide the knowledge necessary to properly evaluate all the structural, mechanical systems, as well as safety concerns found in homes. Ultimately a two-year degree focusing on the proper evaluation of these systems should be required, as well as significant supervised on-the-job training. Through our interviews with many individuals who teach home inspection licensing courses, all have expressed concerns that the current training requirements do not allow for sufficient time necessary to cover the intended subject matter, especailly Module 5, the field training section.
It is NYSAHI's position that the required hours of training should be raised from 140 to a minimum of 200 (30 hours each for Mods 1 through 4; 80 hours for Mod 5).
This need for additional training hours is also important for another reason: Many NYS licensed inspectors in the downstate area need to be able to practice in New Jersey as well as New York, in order to have viable businesses. Because of insufficient training requirements in New York State, New Jersey does not recognize our regulations as sufficient to allow our inspectors to practice in their state. Reciprocity with New Jersey is important to many of our members. We have asked the DOS to negotiate with New Jersey to determine and enact those requirements that would make reciprocity possible.
Inclusion of a rider on all home inspection purchase contracts
(Similar to HUD's - "For Your Protection: Get a Home Inspection
In most cases, purchasing a home is the most important and expensive decision people make. Purchasing a home with serious defects could financially cripple a family's finances, and lead to foreclosure. For this reason, several years ago, the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) required all purchasers who were buying a house with a federally insured mortgage to read and sign a rider included with the purchase contract. Although we feel that a home inspection should be encouraged for all home purchases, we do not want the purchasers to incur any additional expenses, especially during tough economic times. Including this rider will incur no additional costs. It is highly important that potential home purchasers know the difference between an appraisal, which is a determination of the home value in relation to comparable, recently sold, nearby, properties, and a home inspection, which details major defects that can cost the unsuspecting purchaser thousands of dollars of necessary repairs. The purchasers also need to be protected form unethical players in the transaction who may conflate an appraisal with a home inspection, or attempt to dissuade them altogether from a home inspection.
A member asked about home inspectors being able to be qualified to perform windstorm certificate inspections, which is an inspection done on behalf of insurance companies for their insured clients in high-wind (coastal) areas. Windstorm certificates are currently provided by Professional Engineers. Therefore, we would need to change the insurance company requirements, as well as justify to the engineering community that home inspectors could be qualified to perform this inspection. Since windstorm certificates would be a sideline at best for only a limited amount of home inspectors, the Board decided that the limited resources of NYSAHI be allocated for more important efforts.
Mandatory home inspections
A member asked about making home inspections mandatory for real estate transactions in New York State. It was discussed by the Board. The best system to compare this to is the property appraisal system, which is already in use. Appraisal reports must be in a uniform format. Although New York State has a Standard of Practice set forth for home inspections, reporting formats actually vary widely among home inspectors, with many exceeding the Standard to provide more in-depth service. Like appraisals, mandating a home inspection report would essentially reduce it to filling out a form, similar to the HUD forms used for property condition / compliance inspections. Along with the variation in home inspection reporting formats comes variation in pricing. If reports were to be delivered in a standardized format, this would lead to "apples-to-apples" comparison shopping for consumers and ultimately end up driving down the market price of a home inspection. This is exactly what occurs in the appraisal industry, not to mention that banks have changed the way appraisers are hired, making it very difficult for appraisers to maintain client lists and living wage pricing for their work. NYSAHI resources would be stretched in an attempt to change the rules of the NYS mortgage industry as well as dealing with the real estate lobby, who would likely oppose any measure to make home inspections mandatory. The board duly decided that it was not worthwhile to pursue this measure.
Paid Referrals and Preferred Vendor Programs
From the Code of Ethics for Home Inspectors for the State of New York, Title 19 NYCRR: 197-4.7 Conflicts of Interest:
e) Home inspectors shall not directly or indirectly compensate, in any way, real estate brokers, real estate salespersons, real estate brokerage companies, lending institutions or any other party or parties that expect to have a financial interest in closing the transaction, for future referrals of inspections or for inclusion on a list of recommended inspectors or preferred providers or any similar arrangement.
The Code of Ethics for Home Inspectors in the State of New York clearly includes a provision prohibiting paying for referrals. This is obvious to most inspectors, but can become muddied when hidden within a “preferred vendor” marketing program. The Code of Ethics sets forth the position that payment to be placed on a list of “preferred providers” is payment for referrals.
Professionals have a duty to act in good faith toward their clients. Paying for referrals and participating in preferred vendor programs, as interpreted by the Code of Ethics, violates our responsibility to act in good faith toward our clients. The home inspection client should be able to have a reasonable expectation that when a home inspector is being recommended, the referral is based on merit, experience, and knowledgabilty, not on the payment of what could be interpreted as a bribe to the referring party.
A major part of all ethical codes involves the avoidance of conflicts of interest that can compromise, or appear to compromise, professional independence, objectivity, and integrity. Referring individuals whose interests lie in the successful sale of real estate, and home inspectors, acting in good faith toward their clients, may well have conflicting interests.
Placement on a list of “preferred providers” constitutes a referral. There is no real difference between being recommended verbally or in writing, singly or as part of a small group, such as a short list of “preferred inspectors”. When placement on such a list is contingent upon payment of a fee, it represents a payment for referral. It is misleading to the client, who does not know that the home inspector paid for the privilege of being placed on that list.
The State of New York, under the enforcement division of the Department of State, is pursuing legal action against inspectors who participate in these pay-to-play schemes. In addition, disgruntled clients may use the existence of a contractual arrangement between an inspector and a real estate agency in a lawsuit against the inspector. Conflicts of interest aren’t just ethical violations, they are a source of potentially significant liability. Home inspectors should be very cautious about developing business relationships with realty agents or brokers that might compromise, or appear to compromise, the integrity of the inspectors, or the profession, and increase their liability. Any financial arrangement with a real estate agency constitutes a slippery slope toward a clear conflict of interest. Many home inspectors welcome and appreciate the referral of business from real estate agents, believing that such referrals represent a genuine expression, on the part of the agent, of confidence in the knowledge, competence, and integrity of the inspector. We strongly believe that, in the long run, adherence on the part of home inspectors to the strong ethical principles embodied in the Code of Ethics, and the avoidance of potential conflicts of interest, will encourage rather than reduce future referrals and recommendations, and will work to the benefit of the profession as a whole.
NYS Bills in the current
legislative session that could
affect home inspectors
Following is a list of links to Assembly and Senate bills that are currently making the rounds through the legislature. Further down are bills that have become law. Any of these active bills, should they become law, could affect home inspectors in New York State. Environmental testing legislation is considered as well because many home inspectors earn extra income through testing, such as for well water and radon.
Each link brings you to the page where the bill text resides. On that page, click the "Text" box there to view full text of the bill.
Bills numbers begin with A or S, which desginate whether they are assembly or senate bills. Identical bills often make their way concurrently through both the assembly and senate.
Search for active legislation in the Assembly
2019-2020 and related Bills
Creates the well water and water supply education act
; requires the department of health to establish and maintain a public education program on the potential hazards of private water supplies; requires home inspectors, licensed real estate agents and brokers to provide private water supply education materials to prospective buyers of property where such property is serviced by a private water supply and contact information for relevant local health organizations.
: Referred to Ways & Means Committee (01/08/2020)
Versions Introduced in Other Legislative Sessions:
2017-2018: A310, S5031
A09533 / S00048
2021 - 2022 and related Bills
Enacts the "private well testing act"
. Authorizes the department of health to promulgate rules and regulations to establish standards for the testing of drinking water from privately owned wells.
: In Committee - Amended and printed as S00048A
Versions Introduced in Other Legislative Sessions:
* NYSAHI is following this legislation but has “back-burnered” it because the Board decided that it is unlikely to become law due to substantial added expense in home sales.
2023-2024: S1650, A5979
Enacts the "Lead Free Homes Act"; requires the department of health to promulgate standards for lead remediation and abatement of exemption; provides tax credits to class A multiple dwelling owners who undertake a successful lead remediation or abatement; requires lead testing on drinking water prior to the sale of residential property; requires owners of class A multiple dwellings to perform lead testing and provides for fines for violations.
- Referred to health committee as of 8 Apr 2023
A09135 / S8890
Signed by GOV Aug 2022
Extends the date allowable for tax exemptions for first-time homebuyers of newly constructed homes to December 31, 2028.
(Exemption from property tax cannot be for more than 5 years and must be legally adopted as local law by a municipality or by school board resolution, after public hearing.)
A3714 / S5097
Signed by GOV 12/16/22
Requires the disclosure of indoor mold history upon the sale of certain real property.
New York Property disclosure form DOS 1614 (REV 8/06) has not been updated; Law Effective June 2023
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