The question I pose: Whose roses are those?
July 20, 2007 2:33 PM   Subscribe

What are the ownership boundaries of plants in a rented/shared household?

Beauty and the Beast role reversal!

I live in a house modified to be a duplex, beneath my landlord. The house has some flowers in the front and back yards and 8 kinds of fruit trees, avocado trees that yield hundreds of dollars worth of fruit annually. It's all pretty overgrown and tended once annually by day laborers who tear all the weeds out.

My front door faces the rear yard, and has a porch area of its own, around which we have added some potted and boxed plants. One of these is a box of roses and jasmine beneath my bedroom window. I have a water timer set up for these boxes.

My landlord cut off a bunch of my rosebuds! Like, all of them.

Is this fair, given that we are allowed total access to the fruit and flowers he has provided, or is that part of the $1,350 we pay him per month?

I think there's not really any way to broach this issue productively, I just want to know whether this is weird or what.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They're his flowers. I doubt there are any laws forbidding landlords to do their own gardening. But check your lease agreement, it should outline who is responsible for what and if you're entitled to be informed if be wishes to do any work on the garden.
posted by missmagenta at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2007

It sounds like you've asked if it's okay to harvest the avocados and flowers. But your landlord didn't ask if they could have your rosebuds.

That's what I see as the issue - the roses are your property, so you get the say over who does what to them. The fruit and flowers are the landlord's, so the landlord gets the say over your use.

The problem doesn't seem to be one of ownership/rentership or what's included in rent, so much as one of respecting another person's property.

Compare it with another similar situation: you might share a duplex with neighbors who are not your landlords. If they invited you to harvest things from their gardens, that would be one thing; but if you just went over and helped yourself, that would be disrespecting you and stealing your property.

What seems to be wrong is this missing verbal agreement from you that it's okay to cut your roses, which are yours.

Of course, this kind of changes if you've been using the fruit and flowers without that verbal agreement.
posted by Miko at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2007

the roses are your property, so you get the say over who does what to them

Except you planted them in his ground... Do you have any rights to the grounds specified in your lease?
posted by smackfu at 2:52 PM on July 20, 2007

The roses weren't planted in the ground; they were planted in boxes purchased by the tenant. Which I think means they belong to the tenant.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:53 PM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you SURE the landlord did this?

I'd simply ask him if he knew what happened to your rosebuds.
posted by konolia at 2:56 PM on July 20, 2007

Yeah, the boxes were what made me reason that way. They're movable property - same thing as if you put a lawn chair outside.

And even if you plant things in your landlord's dirt, the landlord still doesn't necessarily own the plants. I've definitely dug up and transported my perennial plants from gardens when I've moved.
posted by Miko at 2:57 PM on July 20, 2007

Are you sure it was your landlord that took the rosebuds? If there are other people who come by to tend to the yard, it's possible that they took some of them. You might be jumping to an unwarranted conclusion here.

Of course, even if you're pretty sure it was the landlord, inquiring whether he hired someone to do yard work is a pretty non-confrontational way to bring it up and let him know you're not cool with it. You know, "Hey Bob, I went out on my patio yesterday and noticed that a bunch of my rosebuds were missing. Have you hired anyone recently to tend to the yard who might have gathered them?" or "Hey Bob, I noticed that a bunch of my rosebuds are missing from my patio--if you're hiring someone to tend to the yard, can you let me know so I can pull my plants inside and make sure they don't get inadvertently snipped?"

If you actually saw him take the roses, this might not fly, but otherwise... I mean, it could have been someone else. Maybe someone was walking down the street, hopped the fence, and cut a bunch of roses. It'd be too bad to secretly suspect your landlord and let it fester into bad feelings when there's another possible explanation. Asking nicely about whether he knows what happened to the roses avoids all that, and also lets him know that he should ask first if he was the one who took them.
posted by iminurmefi at 2:57 PM on July 20, 2007

Those are your roses. It's extremely rude to cut every single bud off of someone's rosebush. I don't know what your relationship is with your landlord so I don't know exactly how you want to phrase this, but I'd definitely call him on it. I've never understood why people think it's perfectly OK to completely ravage someone else's garden, even if that garden is in a pot adjacent to their own garden. Perhaps an easy way to make your point in a friendly yet evil way is to buy the exact same rose, put it in a pot, and leave it on your landlord's porch with a note saying "since you liked my roses so much, I thought I get you one of your own!" Of course, I am not living under your landlord.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:20 PM on July 20, 2007

Just go talk to your landlord about it. You say the garden is overgrown with flowers, he probably didn't even think about it. Its his garden on his property. The fact that you added the plants to the garden and are therefore yours not his probably didn't even occur to him. I doubt it was done with any malice.
posted by missmagenta at 3:23 PM on July 20, 2007

It seems like it would be pretty obvious that they do not belong to him since they are in a pot and have a special watering system of their own.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:38 PM on July 20, 2007

Response by poster: I'm pretty sure it was him, since once before he cut some blooming foxgloves I planted in the ground in the area which I think of as our walkway. I saw them when he had us up for a glass of wine. After that, I stuck to containers.

There is a chance he thinks it's a transplanted rosebush that used to live very near the spot where the box is stationed. But that rosebush is dead, dead, dead. And no digging has been done.

I kind of think he thinks we're supposed to "help in the yard" and if we don't contribute to it, but take fruit or the occasional calla or bird of paradise, he can enjoy what he likes from what we do maintain.

I figure anyone daft enough to cut all the foxgloves or all the roses off right as they bloom can't be made to behave otherwise. It certainly is disheartening, though, to get something to bloom and have it cut and taken somewhere you can't enjoy it.

But he's my landlord and there've been a thousand little irritations on both sides from living in proximity these four years, but all together, it's been good enough for me.

Fortunately he seems disinterested in hydrangeas.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:56 PM on July 20, 2007

I've worked for a number of clients in the City living in TIC situations where I installed or worked in gardens in shared areas. People's porches, patios, and deck attached to their own living areas are generally off limits to the other parties. You might want to say something like, "I'd be happy to cut you some flowers, but the rose on my patio is of sentimental value to me, so please ask me to cut them for you."
posted by oneirodynia at 3:57 PM on July 20, 2007

Then, ask him if he knows anything about what happened to the flowers, and then say, sadly,"Oh, I had plans for those rosebuds." You don't have to elaborate what the plans were...let him think you were going to take some to your mother.

THEN tell him, next time, you'll trim him some, but PLEASE ASK.

(You really do have to at least let him know you weren't happy with what happened to YOUR PROPERTY.)
posted by konolia at 4:47 PM on July 20, 2007

posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:57 PM on August 30, 2007

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