Red Flags In Evaluating Documentation For Assistance Animals

Ultimate guide to assistance animals in rental property

Evaluating documentation for assistance animals can be a challenge for multifamily housing providers so this week the the Grace Hill training tip takes a look at a couple of the red flags to watch for in documentation.

By Ellen Clark

Currently, no organization is legally recognized for registering service or assistance animals. Any organization making that claim is misleading its audience.

One of the most common accommodation requests multifamily housing providers get is for a resident to have an animal that would otherwise be restricted by a community’s rules.

But in the past few years, websites have popped up that provide questionable medical verifications for service and assistance animals. Some people are using these sites to get around no-pet policies or avoid things like breed and size restrictions

But other people are motivated by a legitimate service need or deep emotional connection to their animals, which can make this a sensitive issue to navigate.

If you receive documentation related to an accommodation request for an assistance animal that seems suspicious, it might be helpful to do a quick web search on the organization or individual that issued the document.

Two potential red flags in evaluating documentation for assistance animals

No. 1 – The site offers “official” certifications, registrations or IDs for service or assistance animals

Currently, there are no legally recognized organizations for registering service or assistance animals.

Sites that claim to be certifying bodies or that offer official registrations are misleading because there is no such thing.

No. 2- The site offers a “training certificate” as proof that the animal is an assistance animal

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), there is no requirement that assistance animals be trained.

Documentation only needs to establish that the person has a disability and that the animal provides disability-related assistance or emotional support.

An animal’s training is not relevant when evaluating a reasonable accommodations request.

Remember to research any questionable documentation

No matter what source the documentation is from if you are suspicious, do not immediately deny an accommodation request.

Instead, start a conversation with the resident to gather more information. As you go through the process, try not to give the impression that you are doubting the resident’s disability or need for the assistance animal. Instead, let them know that you are simply doing due diligence to confirm documentation.

Keep in mind that some people have been misled by websites and organizations that sell service or assistance animal “certifications” to vulnerable people.

And, most prospects and residents don’t understand the applicable laws as well as you do.

You may need to educate residents as you go. Doing so with understanding and empathy will help make the process go smoothly.

As always, if you have any questions about how to proceed in any situation involving accommodation requests, it is best to consult your supervisor and legal counsel.


Recent Grace Hill training tips you may have missed:

What Do You Do When Assistance Animals Break The Rules?

7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

5 Ways To Protect Applicants, Residents And Employees From Sexual Harassment

Do You Have A Smoke-Free Policy That Adequately Protects Residents?

How To Handle Suspicious Documentation For Assistance Animals

How A No Pet Policy Can Be Discriminatory

Property Management Cyberattack Risks Overlooked, Underestimated

Do You Know How To Respond To a Sexual Harassment Complaint?

Have You Reviewed Your Criminal Background Checks Policy Lately?

Multifamily Managers And Marijuana: Caught In A Pot Crossfire

Fair Housing Discrimination Against Someone You’ve Never Talked To?

4 Ways To Avoid Screening Pitfalls With Applicants

About the author:

Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill. Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

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.