Rebuilding or repairing your property after a bushfire
Guidance for owners and tenants of homes that are damaged or need to be rebuilt after a bushfire.
After returning home
Do not start surveying the damage or repairs to your home, business or property until:
- the power supply, wiring and electrical appliances have been checked by a licensed electrician
- gas is approved by a licensed gas fitter
- water supply and sewage is checked by a licensed plumber.
Before you start any work, read the guidance on what to do if your home is damaged or lost in a bushfire.
If you can't stay at your home because it is unsafe:
- secure it and inform local police that the property will be vacant
- call Service NSW on 13 77 88 about temporary accommodation
- contact your insurance company to see if it can provide any immediate help with money for essentials and accommodation.
Homeowners – read your insurance policy to find out if you are covered for the cost of the repairs.
Tenants – advise your managing agent or landlord of repairs needed.
Checks to make before repairing or rebuilding
Before repairing or rebuilding, you should:
- check your insurance policy and contact your insurer
- take photos and document evidence of the damage before you remove or dispose of items
- verify the licence credentials or qualifications of any tradespeople you might employ
- ask your local council if approvals or permits are needed.
Dealing with trades and builders
Be wary of scammers who may door knock disaster-affected areas and promise the insurer will pay for repairs.
In NSW, residential building work valued at $5000 or more (incl. GST) requires a licence. Specialist work like electrical wiring, air conditioning, plumbing, drainage and gasfitting also require a licence. To check the licence details of a tradesperson, visit the Service NSW website.
After a disaster like a bushfire, there can be a shortage of materials and skilled trades to complete work quickly.
NSW Fair Trading advises to:
- get several quotes
- be wary of people door knocking
- ask for the tradesperson’s full name and licence number
- check with your local council or NSW Department of Planning and Environment if a permit or approval is needed.
Don’t pay any money without a written contract.
Some property repairs can be done without approval from your local council.
These minor internal alterations can be made to replace or renovate:
- doorways, walls, ceilings or floor linings
- deteriorated frames, including stairs and stairwells
- a bathroom or kitchen
- a built-in fixture like a vanity, cupboard or wardrobe
- an existing sanitary fixture, such as a grease trap
- shelving or racking that is not higher than 2.7m
- a work station or counter.
Minor external and non-structural building alterations can also be done without approval from your local council. These include:
- painting, plastering, cement rendering, cladding, attaching fittings or decorative work
- replacing external windows, glazing or a door (other than those on bushfire-prone land)
- repairing or replacing non-structural walls or roof cladding
- installing security screens or grills
- repairing a balustrade
- restumping or repairing structure foundations without increasing the height of the structure.
For more information on what types of work can be done without approval, email
NSW Department of Planning.
Rebuilding from extensive damage
Rebuilding fully constructed properties and obtaining an occupation certificate does require council approval. Some local government approvals also require other works to be scoped, such as plumbing, drainage or surveys.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is working with local councils to reduce barriers to development approval for people wanting to rebuild after natural disasters.
Learn more about planning changes to help people rebuild after a natural disaster.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has resources and planning initiatives to help facilitate rebuilding after natural disasters.
Read about the NSW Government regional housing flying squad program to help councils deliver more housing in regional areas.
Learn more about building in a bushfire-prone area on the Rural Fire Service website.
Help with temporary accommodation
If you urgently need accommodation, call Service NSW on 13 77 88.
If you can't live in your home because of a natural disaster, you can install a 'moveable dwelling', such as a caravan. This can be on your land or on other land with the landowner’s consent. These moveable dwellings can be in place for up to 2 years without the need for council approval. Councils can also extend the 2-year exemption period, if you still have need of temporary accommodation.
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