ISA members are invited to send in their questions on all things appraising and education to Leon Castner, ISA CAPP. Leon will share his answers on the ISA Now Blog. Please send questions to email@example.com.
Question: I am working on a divorce appraisal. One of the spouses asked that photographs not be taken during the onsite inspection. What would you suggest be my argument for insisting that I be allowed to take photographs? I would rather not do the appraisal without being able to take photographs, especially since I already completed the onsite inspection of the contents of the other spouse’s condo and photographs were allowed then.
Answer: The answer depends not on what I say, but what your contract states, if you have one. The first issue is not the photographs, but the client and/or intended users. If the court has ordered you to do the appraisal and it acts as the client, even though you will be paid by the arguing spouses, and if taking photographs is your normal procedure, then you should take the photographs or go back to the court and explain the problem.
On the other hand, if the spouses are your client(s), then a request by one not to take photographs must be approved by the other. It should have been stated in the original contract as part of the scope of work and agreed upon by both. If the other spouse agrees, then you can decide whether doing an assignment without the use of photographs is something you can or want to do. (It’s your choice.) It could be done as a limiting condition with critical assumptions listed in the report.
The fact you have already taken photographs may cloud the issue, but you do not have to include those photos in the report. They could stay in the workfile.
I once had a divorce situation where I did the appraisal but did not include photographs in the report. Months after the report had been delivered, I received a call by “the other side.” (I had been contracted by only one party.) They requested the photographs. I refused stating they weren’t my client and needed permission by my client or an order from the court, which they eventually received and I had to turn over the photographs.
It turned out the request for photographs had nothing to do with my work or any part of the valuation. They were looking for evidence of someone else living in the matrimonial home, which was supposedly at the heart of the complaint.