ESM-17

Penalties for Failing to Lodge Annual Fire Safety Statement

NSW   Hendry advises a number of NSW Councils apply fines for late lodgement or failing to lodge the Annual Fire Safety Statement on time. Building owners are required each year to lodge an Annual Fire Safety Statement and are receiving penalty notices for failing to comply with current essential fire safety measures requirements.

A stringent penalty system is in place to assist local government, who administer the compliance with the current fire safety regulations. This is in response to local government concerns that the regulations were largely being ignored.

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulations 2000 (EPAR) nominates a building owner who is late (even 1 day) in submitting their Annual Fire Safety Statements (AFFS) to receive a $500 fine in the first week, increasing weekly by $500 increments up to $2,000 in the fourth and subsequent weeks.

A building owner or property professional with the most significant risk of penalties are those who own or manage high rise buildings that are subject to tenant turnover and associated fit out alterations.

Fit out alterations often involve partitioning changes, which in turn affect the required positioning of fire sprinklers, paths of travel to escapes and other essential fire safety measures within the building. Rectification works in turn, can also delay the issuing of the AFSS.

The issues of non compliance are possibly greater for strata titled buildings under Corporation Management of a Body Corporate and having multiple unit owners.

The required checking must be completed within three months of the mandatory reporting deadline for the AFSS. This is in order to provide sufficient lead time for building owners to co-ordinate all of the necessary testing with the various maintenance contractors (e.g. fire, electrical, air conditioning and lifts) ahead of the deadline and to ensure they have time for compliance.

Issues caused by the tenants will have no bearing on ultimate responsibility; building owners will receive a penalty for failure to comply. Given the reliance on contractors to do the right thing, owners should carefully consider amending contractor agreements to ensure they have performance clauses that allow them to sign the AFSS with confidence.

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