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Legal Issues - Your legal responsibilites as an apartment tenant

What risks and liabilities might a container gardener face?

An unsecured window box, hanging basket, or other container can be a headache, and not just for the person it drops on. Think it doesn't happen? Ask the plaintiff in the 1961 New York case of Rogers v. Frooks who sued her landlord when a flower box fell off the window and struck her.

In our litigious society you would have to be a fool to put a precariously perched container somewhere that anyone could trip over or fall under it. But what about the legal liabilities surrounding a well secured and maintained garden? Whether you are an owner-occupier of real estate, or just the tenant, you should be aware of three areas that can lead to potential legal liability.

Standard of Care to Those on the Premises: Whenever you decide to have guests over to look at your beautiful garden, or for any other reason, you need to warn them of potentially dangerous conditions, even if they may not cause serious bodily harm.

Duty to Protect Those Off the Premises: If your apartment overlooks the sidewalk, and you hang a window box outside the window or a balcony, you owe a duty to passers-by to take due precautions to protect those people from dangerous conditions.

The Law of Fixtures: If you attach your windowbox or other container to a house or other structure, it may be designated a "fixture" and become part of the house. In other words if you rent - your container now belongs to your landlord. A good rule of thumb for any renter is to check with your landlord before doing ANYTHING that will affect the look or integrity of his/her property.