Fire safety

Fire safety

External cladding

Combustible external cladding can be a fire hazard. Ensure your building's material is safe and have it inspected by a qualified building consultant.

NSW Fair Trading

Keeping fire at bay

The City of Sydney takes fire safety very seriously and has a number of programs in place to help prevent building fires and minimise their impact.

Competent fire safety practitioners

From 1 October 2017 assessments for fire safety statements are to be undertaken by a competent fire safety practitioner. Building owners who submit yearly or supplementary fire safety statements will need to choose a competent fire safety practitioner.

The Department of Customer Service is currently developing an accreditation framework to recognise industry schemes that will accredit individuals as competent fire safety practitioners.

The department has published a guide for building owners to help owners determine if a person is a competent fire safety practitioner in the interim.

When the accreditation scheme is established a register will then be available for building owners to select a competent fire safety practitioner.

Annual fire safety statement

Every year the owner of a building or premises must provide the City and Fire and Rescue NSW with a statement certifying that all fire-safety measures work properly.

Fire safety statements must be prominently displayed within a building. It is an offence to not display fire safety statements.

Find out more, including the new annual statement template and supporting guidelines on the Department of Planning and Industry website.

When you complete the annual statement, you need to lodge it with the City by email, post or in person at a customer service centre, and to Fire and Rescue NSW. For details, visit the Fire and Rescue NSW website.

The City charges an administration fee for the handling and management of submitted annual fire safety statements.

The fee came into effect on 1 July 2015. An invoice will be provided in accordance with the City's fees and charges, which will set out the payment conditions.

Supplementary fire safety statement

A supplementary fire safety statement applies to fire-control measures so it's important that they must be certified more frequently than every 12 months. The frequency will be stated on the premises’ fire-safety schedule.

From 1 October 2017 building owners will need to choose a competent fire safety practitioner (see above). 

Essential fire safety measures

These measures include installations, equipment or forms of construction that will protect occupants of a building in the event of fire or other emergencies. They include:

  • automatic fire detection and alarm systems
  • automatic fire suppression systems, such as sprinkler systems
  • emergency lighting and exit signs
  • fire hose reels, fire hydrants and portable fire extinguishers
  • fire doors and mechanical air-handling systems
  • lightweight fire-resistant construction materials.

Fire safety schedules

Fire safety schedules list the measures required to be installed and the standard they need to achieve. A fire safety schedule can be issued:

  • by the City or an accredited certifier in relation to a construction or complying development certificate
  • by the City with a fire safety order
  • by the City in some cases with a development consent, such as for a change of use in an existing building.

A fire safety schedule is only applicable if any of the above occurred after 1988.

You can obtain a copy of the latest fire safety schedule from the City 

Fire safety certificate

For new or altered buildings, the first certificate, called a fire safety certificate, must be furnished for each new or altered essential fire safety measure. No fee applies.

At least once within every 12 months after the fire safety certificate is completed, an annual fire safety statement must be supplied to the City, certifying a competent fire safety practitioner has inspected the building and found that all required fire-safety measures are compliant with relevant standards.

For existing buildings, every year, within 12 months of the date of the previous annual fire safety statement, the owner of a building must submit an annual fire safety statement to the City certifying that each of the measures listed in the most recent fire safety schedule installed on the premises remain capable of operating to the standards listed in the schedule.


It is an offence to fail to provide the statement. Substantial and continuing weekly penalty notices apply for this offence:

  • 1 week late $1,000
  • 2 weeks late an additional $2,000
  • 3 weeks late an additional $3,000
  • 4 weeks late an additional $4,000.

Although it is not required to do so by law, the City sends a courtesy reminder letter to the owner of affected premises care of the address provided for rates and notices. However, the City accepts no responsibility for any reliance upon it and the legal responsibility for providing the statement when it's due rests with the owner of the premises.

Failure to submit an annual fire safety statement could also lead to legal proceedings in the Land and Environment Court, where the maximum penalty for a breach is $110,000.

Request to stay penalty infringement notice

Where an annual fire safety statement cannot be submitted due to legitimate unanticipated site events/circumstances, the City may consider an application to extend the due date for statement submission.

The City is unlikely to permit any extension of time in the event of poor compliance behaviour and or where development type work is proposed to be carried out.

Applications must be discussed with the City's essential services staff. 

Fire safety inspections

Authorised City building officers will inspect premises thought to be at risk. Fire safety inspections do not normally involve domestic single dwellings (class 1a type buildings).

The City's officers will conduct the inspection as soon as possible. They have legislative power to enter and inspect premises. They carry photographic identification that can be produced on request.

Subsequent inspections can be organised to suit the requirements of the owners and or occupiers of the building.

Fire safety orders

The City can issue fire safety orders to building owners, directing them to undertake improvements. The order will list and specify the reasons for issuing the order, what needs to be done and a deadline. The building owner is responsible for ensuring the order is complied with, while tenants may have certain legal obligations under various lease/contract arrangements.

Beforehand, the City will issue a 'notice of intention' to give an order. The owner can then discuss the terms of the proposed order with the City. The owner can be represented by a legal practitioner or an agent. The owner has 14 days from the date in which the notice of intention was issued to indicate that they wish to make representations to the City. Any request for representation must be in writing.

An order may demand safer fire exits, appropriate fire-safety equipment or proper fire-resistant construction. The cost of improvements and their effect on a building's heritage status will be taken into account. The City will give the owner a reasonable amount of time to comply with the order, depending on the complexity of the improvements. The deadlines may be set in stages.

Anyone receiving an order has a right to appeal or challenge the order or a specified part of the order within 28 days to the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales.

Any applications to have the compliance period extended must be supported by contributory reasons or evidence of hardship. The application must also put forward a works proposal which sets out how and when the outstanding works are to be complied with.

Complying with an order

The City recommends you engage an appropriately qualified person to review the order and oversee the works. You or your consultant should arrange to meet regularly with the City officer.

A City officer will inspect the completed work and any certificates that state work complies with the order. The City will then issue a letter confirming the owner has complied with the order. The building is then added to the City's fire certification database and you are required to submit an annual fire safety statement.

The City will also issue a compliance cost notice. The notice allows the City to recover some of the costs with formulating, monitoring and compliance actions taken with an order that has been issued under schedule 5 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.


The City can take a building owner to court if an order is not carried out. If the City is successful in this legal application the court can issue a court order, which has serious implications for non-compliance.

The City can apply for legal costs and the court can impose substantial fines for ignoring an order.

The City can also issue penalty infringement notices for failure to comply with the terms of a fire safety order. 


Health and Building Unit: Building Surveyors

02 9265 9333


Fire and Rescue NSWHeritage Council of NSWNSW Department of Planning and Environment

Smoke alarms

Everyone who lives in NSW must have smoke alarms fitted in every storey of their house or dwelling (apartments, hostels and hotels) and in rooms where people sleep.

This state government law has been in place since 2006 and carries a maximum penalty of $300. It is also an offence to interfere with or remove a smoke alarm unless for maintenance or replacement.

The law aims to reduce home fire injuries and deaths. It was brought about by a horrific spate of home fires in 2005, which caused 13 deaths in NSW during a 2 week period. This tragedy led NSW to join Victoria and South Australia in making residential smoke alarms mandatory.

What type of alarm do I need?

The type of alarm you need depends on your dwelling. Private dwellings require an Australian Standard 3786 hard-wired smoke alarm. Fire and Rescue NSW recommends photo-electric alarms.

The number of alarms you’ll need depends on the size of your dwelling and its configuration. A private dwelling needs an alarm placed on the ceiling in an area between sleeping and living areas (such as a hallway leading to a bedroom), as well as in any other storey of the same building, even if it does not contain bedrooms. You can get more information about alarms from the Fire and Rescue NSW website link.

Fire safety for boarding houses

All boarding houses in the local area ought to adhere to fire safety guidelines. These guidelines aim to reduce the chance of fire, and also limit a fire’s impact.

Boarding house should all attempt to have:

  • fire safety plans that explain how to escape the building in case of fire, and what should be done afterwards
  • fire safety measures such as smoke alarms, evacuation lighting, fire extinguishers and fire blankets
  • fire safety management that involves the owner, operator and occupants following simple steps to reduce the likelihood of a fire breaking out
  • a fire safety statement.
Boarding houses also need to be registered with the NSW Department of Fair Trading.

You can download a full outline of the guidelines.


Fire and Rescue NSW

Last updated: Tuesday, 3 September 2019