The AII™ Umbrella Philosophy

BACKGROUND: In a newsletter, a prominent California attorney responded to a question from a Home Inspector regarding the issue of home inspector's liability as follows:

"In my opinion, home inspectors would benefit if they were able to establish the same limited duties for themselves as now exist for real estate brokers in the area of inspecting and reporting," (as outlined in the court's 1984 ruling on Easton vs. Strassburger).

Easton vs. Strassburger required real estate agents to perform a diligent visual inspection of the normally accessible areas of a home.

“It remains to be seen whether or not California courts will hold independent home inspectors to a higher standard of expertise than real estate brokers in making a visual inspection,"  the attorney claimed.

Although this was first published more than two decades ago, the question, the attorney’s response, and YOUR actions as a Home Inspectors are still relevant.


Members of the American Institute of Inspectors® already have a tool that sets a high standard and still limits liability. That tool is known to members as the "Umbrella Philosophy".

Umbrella200In every aspect of operating our inspection businesses, we have first defined what a proper inspection includes. That definition is detailed in our Standards of Practice & Code of Ethics.

NOTE: Business protocols described herein are concepts of the industry that have proven successful for hundreds of our members.  Your reporting process doesn’t have to be complicated and/or technically exhaustive.  As a matter of fact, SIMPLE  protocols are better!

The "Umbrella Philosophy" is simply our shorthand for remembering to stay within the guidelines of those Standards. By staying under the umbrella of the definition of a “reduced liability inspection” each member diminishes his/her exposure.

Reducing our liability means skillfully dealing with the most frequently asked questions about our report -- “How to?” and “How much?” without stepping from under the umbrella.

It also means staying out of the area of expertise of other professionals such as the: Termite Inspector,City Building Official, Appraiser, Lender, Realtor.

And technical fields that may require a state license like a: Roofer, Electrician, Heating Contractor, Plumber, A/C Technician, Engineer, or General Contractor.

UmbrellaPhilosophy3Until an inspector learns how to provide a useful report without becoming technically exhaustive, success will elude him. What’s more, the possibility of the liability monster feasting on his assets will loom large in his nightmares.

It is this issue that divides the survivors from the also-rans in the inspection industry. Either you learn to deal with the liability issue, or it will deal you a decisive blow.

It is the ability to provide a useful report without becoming a "technical expert" that is the key to a successful home inspection career.

Unfortunately, every time a home inspector describes a "problem", approximates the "cause", or makes an estimate of replacement or repair "costs", he is slowly debilitating the profession.

Much like a cancer slowly kills it's host, the adoption of a definition of a home inspector as a "problem solver" will slowly kill the opportunity we now have to be recognized as professionals.

William P. (Bill) Ball, Founding
Chairman of A.I.I.TM, July, 1991

Much like the M.D. who is a general practitioner, a home inspector should be thorough enough to identify the need for a specialist, (or technical expert), without becoming one.

Unlike a doctor, with his years of required education, a home inspector simply needs a complete the inspection process and compile a summary of the conditions of the components of a home.

The skill to identify the components and evaluate the answers to the inspection process questions is gained through training and A.I.I.™ membership.

After completing a sanctioned training course and exam, (and/or proving their experience as a home inspector), and passing the qualifying membership exam* - an individual becomes a member of the American Institute of Inspectors®.

Home Inspector

Becoming a Professional in a world of mechanics can only be achieved through strong leadership in an Association of peers who have the same vision.

Join the members of A.I.I.™ as we fulfill our vision of Home Inspectors on a professional par with CPAs, Insurance Agents, and Loan Officers. It's within reach, as long as we stay...

Under the Umbrella!

Membership in A.I.I.™ means something unique in the home inspection industry. The camaraderie evident at every gathering of A.I.I.™ members and the positive attitude, or “can do” approach, about home inspecting distinguishes the association from other groups of inspectors.

Just join the dialogue on the association’s Hotline email bulletin board, or visit the online Inspector Knowledge Base Forum and you will quickly understand how different this group of men and women inspectors are as they attempt to lift one another and share the learned keys of becoming successful property inspectors.

As members of A.I.I.™ , we are proud to be counter-point to the majority of the home inspection industry, providing a high level of professional credentials. We invite all current and future inspectors to join us as we “Change the Way Real Estate is Sold in the English Speaking World.”

The "Umbrella Philosophy", related diagrams, metaphors, and business practices of a Professional Home Inspector are Copyrighted material, (1990), by Bill Ball for the American Institute of Inspectors®

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"I joined AII™ ten years ago and I can't say enough about the great camaraderie and continuing education I have always received. " - Dan Huckins

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