The equine industry traditionally operates on the basis of legally binding verbal agreements. However should you get a horse home to discover that it was not what you expected, you will have difficulty proving what was agreed and may have limited options available to resolve the issue.
When buying a horse, the sale agreement will usually be with a trader acting in the course of a business or with a private individual. Prevention is always better than cure and, whether you are buying from a trader or private individual, if you are buying a horse we would recommend:
• View the horse before buying it to ensure that it is what you are looking for.
• Have the horse vetted. Not doing so may save money in the short term, but could end up costing you far more in the long term.
• If you pay cash to the seller, always get a signed receipt.
• If you buy a horse from an advert, retain a copy of this as it may be helpful if any dispute arises as to what representations were made by the seller.
• Crucially, record the terms of the purchase in a written contract, drafted by a solicitor and signed by both seller and purchaser before payment is made.
A person buying from a trader has significantly more legal protection than against a private seller.
When purchasing a horse from someone acting in the course of a business, Section 14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 will impose implied terms to the agreement for sale, such that the horse has to be of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose for which it was purchased.
These statutory rights give the purchaser a right to return the horse if it does not meet these terms. For example, if a horse has a vice making it unfit for purpose which was present at the time of purchase, but the buyer only discovers it once the sale is complete, the buyer can claim a breach of the implied statutory terms and be entitled to a full refund of the purchase price.
When buying from a private seller, the maxim “Buyer Beware” applies. The buyer needs to undertake their own investigations to ensure that the horse is of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose.
A buyer may be able to rely on Section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 by proving that the horse does not match the sellers’ description.
Disputes may be avoided by having your solicitor draft a formal contract to ensure that the terms of purchase are clear. Not only will this give a greater degree of protection in what is a significant investment, it will also provide peace of mind.