Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Sun, Jan. 19

Column: Two trees or not two trees, that is the question

I received an email this week from an unhappy homeowner:

“Mr. West, you inspected the home next door to me a few weeks ago. The new owners moved in, and immediately starting cutting branches off two of my trees. They showed me your report, where you recommended cutting branches off two beautiful, living trees. You are a home inspector, not a horticulturist. And you obviously don’t understand how harmful it is to cut limbs off a living tree! Especially having an amateur just cut them off wherever they feel like it. Removing limbs should only be done by a professional. How would you like it if someone cut off one of your arms? In the future I suggest you limit your inspections to ‘homes’ and not living creatures that you obviously don’t care about.”

Wow. I admit I am not a horticulturist. I didn’t even know how to spell it. And I do consider trees “alive,” but have never considered them “creatures.”

I reviewed the report on this home, and I did indeed recommend trimming some tree branches. Why would I recommend such a dastardly deed? It’s not just because I’m a non-caring non-horticulturalist. It’s because I’m a home inspector, and I have to report on anything that can affect the home I’m inspecting.

Using the letter writer’s logic, if there was a huge tree right next to the home that was slowly pushing the home off its foundation, I should not report on it. After all, the tree was probably there first. And I certainly don’t want to hurt its feelings.

At the home I inspected, there were tree branches touching the exterior walls. This can provide an entry point for carpenter ants, bark beetles, unemployed hippies, and other creatures you don’t want on your home. (Hey - if a tree is a “creature,” then a 60-year-old hippie can be one too.) I also recommended cutting off a large branch that was over part of the roof and patio cover. The branches were damaging the roof shingles, and If it broke and fell it would likely cause damage to the home.

Arizona says I have to report on these trees. The Standard of Professional Practice for Arizona Home Inspectors (section 5.1F) states “The home inspector shall observe vegetation, grading, drainage, driveways, patios, walkways and retaining walls with respect to their effect on the condition of the building.” The Standards define “observe” as examining something and reporting on its condition. Even if a tree is a “creature,” I think it still comes under the “vegetation” category.

I would like to think that I am not an uncaring zealot. After reading that email, on the way home I saw at least six landscaper trucks/trailers. They had weedeaters, hedge trimmers, even chain saws! And they were all vilifying vegetation.

Now to be honest, there is one point to be taken from that email. There is a proper way to trim large branches off a tree, and I will make that point in the future if I have to recommend cutting off large branches.

I also received an email this this week from a local home inspector:

“I would like to file a complaint, but I’m not sure if I can. I had an inspection scheduled last week that got canceled. When I asked why, the Realtor told me I’m not on the list of approved inspectors for her office. She forwarded an email to me with a list of inspectors she is not supposed to refer, because they have not given her office a copy of their E &O insurance. I’m not going to, either. I know it is illegal for a home inspector to be on a preferred vendor list. I got a letter from the BTR stating that. I know you work for the BTR, does this fall into that category?”

I need to explain a few things here before I offer advice. The BTR is the Arizona Board of Technical Registration that regulates home inspectors in Arizona. I do not “work for them;” I am on their enforcement advisory committee and home inspector rules and standards committee. The BTR did send out a letter to all home inspectors stating they cannot participate in preferred vendor programs . A preferred vendor program is where a home inspector pays a monthly fee to a real estate office to be on an approved list. E&O insurance is Errors and Omissions insurance that most home inspectors carry.

You cannot file a complaint with the BTR against a Realtor or real estate office. The BTR has no jurisdiction over Realtors. Also, I do not feel this program falls under the definition of a preferred vendor. The home inspectors are not paying a fee to be on a list. Any inspector that provides insurance information can be on that list, they are not excluding any home inspectors. The inspector is not paying anything, so in my opinion you can’t file a complaint against an inspector.

I agree with you, and I will not give my insurance information to any office. That is like asking someone for their automobile insurance for no reason. Why would you give it to them? If a client is unhappy with an inspection or report, they should call the home inspector. If he/she really did miss something, most inspectors will make it right without involving their insurance company.

The only one that might have a valid complaint would be a client. The five most experienced home inspectors in the Prescott area are not on that “approved” list. If a client received a poor inspection or report , and found out their Realtor was not supposed to refer any of the most experienced inspectors, they might have a valid grievance. But it would be with the real estate office, not the home inspectors.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 7,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him at or visit

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