Rose bushes: A liability

10 Replies

My rental property has three rose bushes. They look nice and I think add a little curb appeal. There is one in the front and two in the backyard.

When trimming them the other day I realized just how thorny they were.

I dont have a tenant in there yet, but was wondering: If my tenants have kids and they fall into the bushes or hurt themselves in some way on the thorns, can I be facing possible legal action? Should I get rid of them?

Is there something I should/could put in the lease regarding such things?


Is it the "Yellow Rose of Texas" you are talking about? We are in Vancouver Washington, just north of the "Rose City" of Portland Oregon. Roses are a natural part of landscaping around here. We have had rental property for 19 years. Rose bushes have never been a problem. Our city police actually recommend landscaping with thorny bushes under windows to deter crime.

Roses bushes can be easily managed, it's the blackberry bushes that get out of hand. Poisonous plants are the ones that could lead to real trouble. Identify and remove any poisonous plants on your property as well as any invasive species.

As to your questions about the rose bushes: Legal action is highly unlikely; on what basis, a scratch? No need to get rid of the rose bushes unless you don't like them. They can be an asset as good foundation plants. Put in your lease who's responsible for taking care of the landscaping and define it further if you feel you need to.

@Marcia Maynard thanks. There is a big yellow rose bush in the back...the other two are red roses. I think they look nice. the neighborhood is a C+ type area and my house is the nicest on the block. I think the red roses in front give it a nice pop of color.

I guess I was worried about some kid thinking "ooooh GRAB!!!"

Thanks again.

Not so fast, @Joe Butcher . @Marcia Maynard may be correct in a rational way, "roses are natural, roses have thorns, everyone knows this, just take care of it and there won't be a problem." But lawsuits are rarely rational.

I see four possible scenarios:

1) You keep the rose bushes, and nothing bad happens, ever.

2) You keep the bushes. Someone (a child, or guest of a tenant, or a tenant's friend's mother) playing ball/frisbee near the bushes falls into them, scratching themselves up, maybe damaging an eye, and you get sued. At best, complaint dismissed, and you're out a few dollars for the attorney; no biggie. Or,

3) Same as 2), but a judge doesn't dismiss the complaint, and it goes to trial. At best, you win but are out a few thousand dollars in legal costs, at worst... use your imagination.

4) You dig up the bushes and assuredly avoid any possible problems related to rose bushes.

I happen to really like roses in landscaping, but NEVER confuse the ability to sue with whether the suit has any merit. Any lawsuit will automatically cost money to address, regardless of eventual outcome. And it's not you that decides a case's merit, it's a judge and maybe jury who's background and prejudices you can't begin to know.

@Leon D. As I said, legal action is highly unlikely. Think cost/risk benefit and return on investment. If rose bushes were such a liability, our city parks would not use them in their landscaping or near the play grounds. The International Rose Test Garden in Portland hosts thousands of visitors every year, including many children and frisbee throwers.

Our legal system gives people the right to file a lawsuit, frivolous or well founded. I choose not to live my life in fear of being sued. I do take precautions to reduce the risk. I do protect my interests with adequate insurance and good legal representation. There is no confusion here.

Any cost/benefit analysis would tell you to pay $50 to have the bushes pulled out and replaced with azaleas.

I never presume to know what's in the mind of a potentially non-rational actor. I only rely on my own sanity, not that of others.

True story regarding rose bushes....I have a nurse friend and when we go up to Atlanta we trade ER/hospital horror stories (we both work in the medical field).

She tells me the story of a fellow who is out working in his rose garden, trips, falls forward right on a thick cane of a rose bush that pierces his orbital cavity (the space above one eye). He screams for his wife. She runs out and just about faints at the sight of him stuck on the rose bush. She calls 911. Paramedics come and are afraid to pull him off the cane as they don't know how far it's pierced into his skull. They cut the cane and haul him off to my friends ER. He's flown to our local trauma center where the Neurosurgeons take him into surgery to attempt to remove the cane. The man ends up dying because the cane has managed to pierce his brain.

A bizarre case. I tell my friend she wins the contest on medical horror stories hands down.

Remove the rose bushes. Stranger things can happen.


Very unlikely anything would happen with the bushes but after reading @Gail K. story I'd say pull them.

Rose bushes , poison ivy , a crack in the sidewalk , a branch that falls from a tree , somebody can sue for anything . Thats what insurance is for .

Make sure you have an umbrella policy! It is the best money we spend each money. It is great protection for all of the unknown!

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