I got a question today that merits a blog entry. What can or should management do concerning the need to verify or otherwise obtain medical documentation regarding the need for a reasonable accommodation or reasonable modification.
HUD's guidelines on this point state that if a disability is obvious (which means visable) and the need for the accommodation is obvious, then there is no need to ask for any verification. An example of this would be permitting a seeing-eye dog at a community that otherwise does not permit pets. Management would not charge any pet fee as well as waive the no pet policy.
The guidelines also note that if a disability is obvious -- but the need for the accommodation does not appear to be related to the disability, then management absolutely is entitled to seek verification for the specific need at issue. For example, if a resident in a wheelchair requests that she have a cat as a service animal at a community that does not permit pets, management can certainly ask for verification that the accommodation is related to the disability and is necessary because of the person's disability.
A related issue is just who can verify a disability? The law provides that a verification be done by a "health care provider" -- a term that can mean a medical doctor or anyone in the health care industry. This can include individuals such as a nurse practitioner, a chiropractor and/or a therapist. As a general rule, management does not want to get in the medical arena and we do not want to be hiring our own doctors to set up a battle of experts. A "credible statement" by a health care provider treating the resident should be all management needs.