After a bit of an interruption, the saga continues.
In previous editions of USPAP, the Ethics Rule included a requirement that the appraiser maintain adequate records (workfiles). Some folks had voiced concern about this state of affairs, under which an appraiser could be found in violation of the Ethics Rule for failing to maintain an adequate workfile, even by mistake. While such a failure is certainly irresponsible – perhaps even negligent – it seems unfair to automatically categorize this as “unethical”. Appraisers are only human, and mistakes can happen.
In response, for the 2012-2013 USPAP the Appraisal Standards Board made the bold move of taking this requirement out of the Ethics Rule and instead fashioning it into a brand-spanking-new Record Keeping Rule. (If you ask me, it should really be the Recordkeeping Rule; alas, they did not ask me.) Now, failure to maintain an adequate workfile is only a violation of the Record Keeping Rule rather than a more serious Ethics Rule violation.
There is, however, a major caveat: In conjunction with this change, the ASB also added a new provision to the Ethics Rule. This provision states that anyone who willfully or knowingly violates the Record Keeping Rule is also in violation of the Ethics Rule.
In order words, the ASB is saying that the intentional failure to maintain adequate records does indeed rise to the level of being unethical. I, for one, think this is a reasonable assertion.
However, the ASB has left me scratching my head on this one, and here’s why:
Could not this very same distinction – between intentional and unintentional infractions – be applied to several other requirements within the Ethics Rule? For example, one of the Ethics requirements is that the appraiser “Must not misrepresent his or her role when providing valuation services that are outside of appraisal practice.” I would consider this unethical only if the misrepresentation was intentional. So perhaps the ASB should create a separate Misrepresentation Rule, and leave a provision in the Ethics Rule to cover intentional misrepresentation.
The same could be said of another Ethics Rule requirement, which states that the appraiser “Must not engage in criminal conduct.” (Yes, this is akin to a law making it illegal to break the law.) Shouldn’t this be an Ethics Rule violation only if the appraiser engages in criminal conduct intentionally?
Editor’s Note: I promise that this will be the last post on USPAP for a while!