Bad Boarders- The High Price of Failing to Pay Board

Equine Law– Equine Liens

For as long as riders have been boarding their horses, there have been horse owners who have failed to pay. Many in the equestrian industry are aware that if a boarder fails to pay for services, including feed and board, the barn owner can place a lien on the horse, most commonly referred to a stable keeper’s lien or agister’s lien. The laws in Florida are particularly favorable for stable owners and disfavor horse owners. Most people are surprised to learn that if they fail to pay for services which were provided to their horse, such as feed or board, their horse can be auctioned, without the owner receiving notice of the impending sale. This may be unsettling to learn, but at look at the procedure for such liens will explain how the sale can happen without the owner’s notice and what they can do to protect their horse from an unwanted sale.

The following is the procedure for establishing a stable keeper’s lien in Florida:

1) Provide the service. There is no requirement that the horse owner be provided notice of the service because the law presumes the owner is aware that such services are being provided. Further, there is no requirement that the lien be recorded in the public records. The stable owner can then either proceed with one of the two second steps (“a” and “b” listed below).

2 a) Bring an action within one year. The law is unclear whether a stable owner must bring the action within one year of the lien or within one year from the date the services were rendered. Therefore, it is best to bring action within the year from the date the services were rendered, in order to ensure the action is brought in a timely manner. A lienor, in this case the stable owner, has the option of bringing a “summary action” which significantly shortens and expedites the time frame of the litigation process.

OR

2 b) Wait at least one month, but no more than three, and perform a “non-judicial sale” of the horse. During the time that the horse is in the stable owner’s possession, he or she must take efforts to mitigate losses. Once the three months pass, however, the non-judicial sale is no longer available. To perform the sale, the stable owner must place a notice in three public places, the first is at the local courthouse, the second is at a public and conspicuous location at the stable owner’s place of business, and a third in a public location, most typically a local newspaper. Note, there is NO requirement to give notice to the horse owner. Once the sale has been completed, if there is any proceeds from the sale which exceed the amount of the lien, the balance should be deposited with the clerk of court, which is given a commission.

Any horse owner should be concerned that their horse could be sold without any notice. The one recourse horse owners have is when there is a dispute over the lien, the owner can re-take possession of the horse, provided they pay a bond into the court registry for the amount of the lien. This will not resolve the dispute, but it will prevent an unwanted sale of the horse pending resolution of the dispute.

If you have any questions regarding your rights, or you have questions regarding a stable keeper’s lien, please contact us.

For a scholarly and legal article on the matter, please see “Taking Notice of Florida’s Antiquated Equine Lien Laws,” Amanda Simmons Luby and Renee E. Thompson, The Florida Bar Journal (Vol. 88, No. 9, November 2014). 

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