The Grace Hll training tip of the week focuses on the documentation for assistance animals, service animals, and emotional support animals.
If you suspect that documentation for assistance animals is suspicious, you may ask for more information.
Recently, you may have noticed documentation coming from websites that offer assistance animal “certifications” for a fee, but they appear to provide this documentation without firsthand knowledge of a person’s disability or what assistance or support the animal provides.
Some housing providers don’t raise questions about suspicious documentation because they fear being accused of discrimination.
It is important to know that it is ok to question suspicious documentation and ask for more information.
However, you must be very careful about the questions you ask, the statements you make, and the additional documentation that you request. Your words could be used as evidence of disability discrimination. It is advised that you involve legal counsel when following up on suspicious documentation for assistance animals.
In fact, the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) Fair Housing Board recently issued informative guidance on this very topic. It is worth a read, even if you don’t have properties in Virginia.
What the Virginia fair housing board says is, “A person with a disability, or a person associated with such person, may submit a request for a reasonable accommodation to maintain an assistance animal in a dwelling. Subject to subsection B, the person receiving the request may ask the requester to provide reliable documentation of the disability and the disability-related need for an assistance animal, including documentation from any person with whom the person with a disability has or has had a therapeutic relationship.”
If documentation seems suspicious, it might be helpful to do a quick web search on the organization or individual that issued it.
Documentation for Assistance Animals: Potential red flags
Here are some things that might be red flags.
Do not immediately deny the accommodation request
No matter what the source for the documentation of assistance animals, if you are suspicious, do not immediately deny the accommodation request. Instead, start a conversation with the resident to gather more information.
Evaluating a reasonable accommodation request should be an individualized process with an ongoing dialog between you and the resident. Often people file discrimination claims because they don’t feel heard, don’t understand the process, or aren’t kept in the loop.
Don’t underestimate the importance of good communication.
Reprinted by Permission. Source: Rental Housing Journal. ©2018 Professional Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved. Email: info@ProPublic.com Visit www.rentalhousingjournal.com or call (503) 221-1260 Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill. Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk
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