Margaret Burgess

The Project

Margaret enforced the fair housing rights of low-income individuals in metro Atlanta through legal representation, with a particular focus on individuals with disabilities and those with a criminal record.

Low-income renters increasingly struggle to find or retain decent housing in metro Atlanta. A large part of the problem is the lack of fair housing enforcement, as most low-income renters in this area are persons of color and/or persons with disabilities who often cannot access housing or lose their housing for reasons linked to discrimination. Margaret addressed this gap in enforcement by creating Atlanta Legal Aid’s first dedicated fair housing enforcement practice in the rental market. She provided direct legal representation to individuals who suffered the most prevalent forms of discrimination observed in this market: refusing to accommodate or rent to persons with disabilities, and excluding applicants with any sort of criminal history, resulting in racial discrimination.

Fellowship Plans

During the two-year Fellowship period, Margaret:

  • Provided full representation to over 25 clients on fair housing issues and/or repair-related housing issues
  • Won summary judgment in a federal fair housing lawsuit, where the court found that the local housing authority had engaged in disability discrimination by failing to accommodate the client’s disabilities
  • Won a motion for preliminary injunction in a federal fair housing lawsuit, which resulted in the housing authority increasing the client’s voucher amount based on disability needs so that she and her family could secure accessible housing and avoid homelessness
  • Defended a blind client in an eviction lawsuit, by raising counterclaims based on failure to repair and failure to reasonably accommodate, resulting in the judge dismissing the eviction and awarding the client $32,600 (including punitive damages) and Atlanta Legal Aid over $4,800 in attorney’s fees
  • Prevented two disabled clients from losing their subsidized housing, by settling two separate eviction lawsuits where the landlords had failed to accommodate their disabilities
  • Helped secure an accessible apartment in a subsidized senior complex for a client who uses a wheelchair, negotiating and settling a potential fair housing case on the denial of her reasonable accommodation request
  • Conducted 11 Know Your Rights and fair housing trainings, reaching over 230 attendees, as well as seven trainings for nearly 400 case workers and social workers on how to flag and address fair housing issues

Next Steps

After her Fellowship, Margaret began working at the Federal Trade Commission’s offices in Atlanta, where she focuses on enforcing consumer protection laws by initiating civil investigations and lawsuits against entities that engage in unfair or deceptive business practices.

Media

Atlanta’s Section 8 tenants have trouble finding good housing

City of Atlanta Files Lawsuit Against APS Over Alleged Bond Debt; Housing Advocates Talk Evictions In Metro Atlanta

Shutdown now squeezing seniors, families in subsidized housing

Berkeley Law Places Most Equal Justice Works Fellows for Second Straight Year