28 August 2008 12:23
I’m about to move my horse to a new livery yard but their terms and conditions say that, if I owe more than three months’ livery, they can sell my horse to cover their costs. Is this legal?
By Your Horse
Solicitor Martin Pate replies:
A clause like this refers to what is known as a ‘lien’ – this is a legal right to withhold the goods or property of another until payment is made.
Livery owners invite you on to their private land, so you remain there on their terms. By signing up to a contract with these sort of terms and conditions, you enter into a contract with the livery owners and could be sued for breach of it. So read through all of the terms of the contract fully.However, the clause relating to the sale of your horse would be unlikely to be enforceable. A lien allows the livery yard to retain possession of your horse until payment is made – however, it does not in its own right grant the yard owners the power to sell your horse. To do this, the livery owners would have to pursue you for breach of contract through the courts. If this happened, you would be able to defend the claim, but if the yard retained possession of your horse, they would be able to claim for any payment made on your behalf (feed or bedding etc).A lien can only be exercised while an individual has possession over an item, so once your horse is removed from the yard, the owners would no longer hold a lien over him. It would still be possible for the livery yard owner to pursue you for non-payment of livery.These sorts of clauses incorporating a lien are fairly common. If you’re unhappy with it, talk to the yard owner and see if the term can be excluded from the contract.