As I have written about before, the rules regarding permissible inquiries in response to a Fair Housing Act accommodation request are complex and fraught with danger. Given this complexity, many housing providers are inclined to simply grant any accommodation request made by a resident with an apparent disability (such as a resident in a wheelchair).
Which leads me to an interesting scenario I heard about recently. A resident’s ferret had gotten loose on the property and was terrorizing the neighbors. I was understandably confused, given that I did not think that this particular apartment complex allowed ferrets (in light of their obvious man-eating propensities). It turns out that this particular resident was in a wheelchair, and the landlord, despite the property’s policy strictly prohibiting ferrets, simply allowed him to have the ferret because the disabled resident requested it (without asking any further questions).
Accordingly, as a public service announcement, I wanted to remind everyone that there still must be a connection, or nexus, between a resident’s disability and the requested accommodation. And if that connection is not obvious, you are permitted to request information verifying the disability-related need for the accommodation. It’s only when the disability or the disability-related need is apparent that you are not allowed to request additional information (it makes sense if you think about—if you can plainly see it, there is no need for additional documentation regarding it).
So, if a resident with a vision impairment requests what is clearly a seeing eye dog, you should not request any further information. But if a resident in a wheelchair requests that you allow him or her to have a ferret, you will probably want to ask for documentation verifying that there is a disability-related need for that ferret.