redlineNobody likes fake Emotional Support Animal letters, but a recent DOJ consent decree should remind apartment owners that reasonable verification of a disability can spill over into unreasonable discriminatory demands.

The DOJ press release, and a link to the decree, can be found HERE. The apartment managers’ sin was requiring that an individual claiming to be disabled provide a “prescription” for the emotional support animal that included an assumption of liability by the health care provider for damage caused by the animal. You don’t have to be a mind reader to understand what management was thinking. If the health care provider is taking a risk, he or she will be more honest about the existence of a disability. HUD, DOJ, and any court would see it differently. They saw threatening a health care provider as a way of keeping those with disabilities from exercising their rights.

There is a right way to deal with fake ESA requests, as explained in our earlier blogs, Emotional Support Animals – Just say “NO” to bogus ESA letters, and Fido Frenzy Revisited – Reasonableness is the Key. Click on those links or email us for a copy of our webinar on the subject if you’d like more details. The basic rule, however, is simple. Don’t make threats, just ask questions. If you ask the right questions you can ferret out the fakes without running afoul of the Fair Housing Act.