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How can I check if my NYC apartment building is fire-code compliant?

  • You can complain of a fire-code violation to 311 or hire an architect or engineer to inspect your property
  • Make sure you know whether your building is fireproof or not in case there is an emergency
Celia Young Headshot
By Celia Young  |
March 6, 2024 - 11:34AM
In New York City, United States this older residential building viewed from the High Line has old fashioned fire escapes visible on its exterior.

Your fire escape needs to be clear of obstructions under NYC's fire code.


I'm concerned about the fire safety of the tenement-style apartment building where I live. How can I make sure my building is up to code?

You may want to hire an architect or engineer to confirm that your building is up to code, but there's a handful of other options if that's a bit too pricy, according to our experts. 

First things first, you’ll want to know what safety measures should be in place. Your apartment should have at least one working smoke detector—that you have to maintain—and if you have a fire escape it has to be clear of obstructions and safe to use. 

If you live in a building with three or more units, it needs to have self-closing doors that slow a fire’s spread and your landlord should give you a copy of the Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide each year. They should also post a copy in your apartment and your building’s in common areas. You can check out the city fire code online as well.

If you're a co-op or condo owner, it's on your board to ensure fire safety. 

"The building is responsible for keeping it up to date, fire-code-wise," says Deanna Kory, a broker with Corcoran. "In fact, to get insurance, they need to have done inspections and updates if needed."

If you have a question about Gotham’s fire codes, you can ask the FDNY through their public inquiry form online.

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published in January 2018. We are presenting it again with updated information for March 2024.]

What to do if you suspect your building isn’t safe

You should contact your landlord if there’s an issue in your building, and you can register complaints with the fire department by calling 311, using its online portal, or by emailing the department directly.

If you think there’s a major issue in your building—such as missing sprinklers, fire escapes in poor condition, or blocked exits—you may want to contact an architect or engineer. 

"Many of our clients think, 'Well, I'll just call the Department of Buildings,' but the problem is if they see a serious violation, they're going to slap a vacate order on the building," says Sam Himmelstein, a partner with the firm Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, & Joseph (a Brick sponsor, FYI).

An architect or engineer can confirm whether your building is compliant with fire codes, as well as other electrical and building codes. 

Make sure you know if your building is fireproof

Newer New York City buildings are usually fireproof, meaning they are built with modern, less combustible materials that slow a fire’s spread, while blazes can quickly grow at non-fireproof buildings. That’s a crucial distinction because it determines what you should do during a fire.

If your building is not fireproof, it's usually safer to leave the property ASAP if there is a fire. But if it is fireproof, the New York City Fire Department recommends staying inside, keeping your door shut, and calling 911 for further instructions. 

You can determine your building’s status by looking at its certificate of occupancy through the DOB’s Building Information System or DOB Now. It will list your property’s construction classification as fireproof or non-combustible or not fireproof.

A previous version of this story contained reporting by Alanna Schubach.

Trouble at home? Get your NYC apartment-dweller questions answered by an expert. Send your questions to [email protected].

Celia Young Headshot

Celia Young

Senior Writer

Celia Young is a senior writer at Brick Underground where she covers New York City residential real estate. She graduated from Brandeis University and previously covered local business at the Milwaukee Business Journal, entertainment at Madison Magazine, and commercial real estate at Commercial Observer. She currently resides in Brooklyn.

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