(Last updated: March 25, 2020)
This guide is for home inspectors to help them get through the hurdles they may encounter as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. As we all watch the development of the COVID-19 pandemic unfold with uncertainty, it’s of the utmost importance for members of InterNACHI® to consider the impact it may have for their business and the well-being of their employees and clients, and all the people they come into contact with. Read InterNACHI’s Public Statement on COVID-19.
It is InterNACHI’s position that home inspectors provide an essential service because they ensure people’s health and safety in the home by inspecting for hazards. But it’s important to check your state’s and municipality’s rules in order to be compliant with rapidly changing guidelines and temporary laws enacted to address this emergency. InterNACHI® will post updates to its website at www.nachi.org as information becomes available.
NOTE #1: Health and safety are always the most important, without exception.
In short, it’s a respiratory disease caused by a virus that is spreading worldwide and poses a serious public health threat. It has affected both healthy individuals and people already battling illness, including those with chronic medical conditions. The results of contracting COVID-19 have ranged from a temporary flu-like illness from which people have recovered, to life-threatening conditions and death. It can can be spread through person-to-person contact, through droplets in the air, and from touching surfaces where contamination has been deposited (the virus can live up to three days on non-porous surfaces).
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that all people are at risk, but the following persons are at higher risk for more serious complications, including the elderly in general, and people of all ages who have serious underlying medical or chronic medical conditions, including:
The high-risk population also includes those who are immunocompromised, including those with autoimmune diseases and those undergoing chemotherapy.
Thus, people who may have an “invisible illness” are more at risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19.
So, what does this mean for home inspectors? It means that they must take extra precautions, not only for their own health and safety (particularly if they’re considered high-risk), but also for everyone they encounter during the course of business.
NOTE #2: It’s not always apparent who is at higher risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19. The virus has infected people of all ages – from infants to the elderly, both healthy and not.
According to the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. These symptoms may take up to 14 days after exposure to appear. There is currently no FDA-approved medication for treatment.
How COVID-19 Spreads
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person:
These droplets can land near the mouths and noses of people who are nearby and inhaled.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can pose an infection risk depending on the following methods of transmission and the virus’s lifespan:
However, these timelines and methods may vary based on ambient temperature and relative humidity. More studies still need to be conducted.
NOTE #3: For the latest information about COVID-19 transmission, visit the CDC’s “How It Spreads” page.
It’s important for commercial property inspectors to be aware of the continuing spread of COVID-19 in general, including emerging hotspots, and infection and fatality rates. Refer to the following resources:
It’s also important for home inspectors to stay up to date on enacted restrictions within their local communities. The situation may vary greatly – and daily – in terms of stay-at-home orders and the closure of businesses and non-essential service providers in your community. Bookmark your state’s and city’s dedicated coronavirus webpages and sign up for their alerts.
Then, share your experiences with other inspectors. It’s important for all of us to have each other’s back during this difficult time. By sharing local information with others, you may be helping inspectors who are located in nearby areas better prepare for what may be headed their way.
NOTE #5: Visit InterNACHI’s Inspection Community forum and InterNACHI’s Facebook page. Share vital information about local issues during the COVID-19 outbreak, ask other inspectors relevant questions, and join the camaraderie to stay upbeat during this unprecedented time.
In addition to the health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, there may be financial and other concerns related to the operation of small businesses. Across the nation, state governments are issuing stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders, with some exceptions for “essential business or industry,” which leaves inspectors and real estate professionals wondering if they’re exempt from those directives. In short, it varies by industry and location. Check with industry authorities, along with state government websites, and consult legal counsel, if necessary.
As of March 25, 2020, the states with shelter-in-place / stay-at-home orders include:
States that have enacted limited or municipal stay-at-home orders as of March 25 include:
NOTE #6: Refer to the multi-state COVID-19 Policy Tracker. It has resources for all state and local government responses to COVID-19.
Home inspectors who are required to suspend business by law or due to health and safety concerns should track the financial relief legislation related to COVID-19. To date, there are at least three COVID-19 relief packages introduced (some have become a law), including:
NOTE #7: Each legislative package listed above will affect small businesses differently. InterNACHI® urges its members to consult with their designated legal and tax professionals for more information on how the bills relate to their own business. Some legislation provides the ability of businesses with 50 or fewer employers to apply for certain exemptions, as well as tax credits for self-employment taxes.
Internal Revenue Service
The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. For more information, visit the IRS’s Coronavirus Tax Relief webpage.
The U.S. Treasury Dept. and Internal Revenue Service have announced that Tax Day has been moved from April 15 to July 15. Tax form filings and payments for all federal income taxes (including self-employment tax), regardless of amount, will now be due on July 15, 2020. For more information, read the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Press Release.
NOTE #8: Independent contractors who provide ancillary services for your home inspection clients may be exempt from certain aspects of new temporary tax legislation. For general information about taxes and independent contractors, read Hiring Independent Contractors.
Coping with Short-Term Significant Slowdown
The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a number of helpful resources, including its Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, guidance for businesses and employers, SBA products and resources, and government contracting and local assistance. For more information, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19): Small Business Guidance & Loan Resources.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has resources; read their blog post titled Protect yourself financially from the impact of the coronavirus.
The CDC has stated that “widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur. In the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be exposed to this virus.” Thus, it’s extremely important for commercial property inspectors to learn how to protect themselves and others the come into contact with.
All home inspectors are encouraged to complete InterNACHI’s new online COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors Course, which is free and open to all, including non-members. The course’s goal is to teach inspectors best practices for protecting themselves from the coronavirus during inspections, and how to develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. It’s also open to real estate professionals interested in learning more.
NOTE #9: You need not be a member of InterNACHI® to take the free online COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors Course. If you’re not a member of InterNACHI®, register as a guest to complete the free, online course.
NOTE #10: InterNACHI® advises its members to complete the course prior to continuing through the remaining sections of this article.
In addition to InterNACHI’s COVID-19 safety standards course and OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, more resources for emergency preparedness for pandemics and natural disasters include:
NOTE #13: Pandemics and natural disasters are unpredictable, so it’s in every business owner’s best interests to develop and incorporate standards and policies to address a crisis, if they don’t already have such protocols in place.
To aid in developing and incorporating safety standards and policies companywide, the following documents are available for business owners related to COVID-19.
Summary Checklist for Commercial Property Inspectors to Reduce the Risk of Exposure to SARS-CoV-2
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Checklist for Home Inspectors
to Reduce Their Risk of Exposure to COVID-19
Here are some basic steps inspectors can take to help avoid getting ill while performing inspections:
(SOURCE: InterNACHI’s COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Home Inspectors Course, and OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, March 2020)