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Legal action by 4th community over housing

AAP logoAAP 25/08/2016 Elise Scott

A fourth indigenous community is threatening legal action against the Northern Territory government over the poor state of remote housing.

Dozens of homes in the indigenous community of Yuendumu are in need of emergency repair, with some residents waiting up to six months for less urgent repairs.

Lawyers for the residents served legal notices to the housing department 10 days ago, demanding they carry out emergency repairs by Monday.

If they're not done, the tenants will file claims in the NT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights have detailed hundreds of maintenance requests for leaking roofs, electrical faults and other problems in papers to the department.

The group says about 70 per cent of the 42 houses inspected require emergency work.

Lawyer Daniel Kelly said the department, as the landlord, was legally bound to deal with maintenance requests within the timeframe, which for emergency repairs was 14 days.

"One of the problems in Yuendumu is that they've been told that they only have 18 months of water left for the community," he told AAP on Thursday.

"One of the problems is leaking taps, when everyone has been told to conserve water."

More than half of the homes had problems with their stoves, 46 per cent had some sort of electrical fault and about 37 per cent had issues with their showers, the lawyers' survey found.

Two days out from the NT election, Mr Kelly said the action highlighted the lack of accountability of the government, which had consistently failed to provide safe housing.

"This is public knowledge, everyone is aware of what is going on," he said.

The move follows legal action launched by communities Larapinta, Santa Teresa and Papunya.

Mr Kelly said the department had contacted him about the legal notices, advising via voicemail the requests had been actioned.

"But I spoke to a few people in the community today and they said there was really no evidence of work being done," he said.

If Labor wins government from the CLP on Saturday as the polls predict, Mr Kelly says it's an opportunity for a rethink of remote housing management.

"The chance this new government has is that they have a clean slate," he said.

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