Ask H&H: verbal agreements when buying a new horse

  • View horses for sale

    Legal advice when buying horses

    Q: I had been loaning a horse for six months when the owners decided to put him up for sale. As I had been getting on extremely well with the horse, I put some money together so I could buy him. I had a pre purchase vetting – all was fine – and paid the owners the full amount.

    Now they have said they won’t let me have his passport unless I sign a contract saying I will not sell him on without giving them first refusal at the price for which I bought him.

    He is young and green, so likely to increase in value. There was no mention of a contract until now. What can I do?
    ST, Cheshire

    We asked Elizabeth Simpson, senior solicitor at law firm Andrew Jackson, for her thoughts.

    “This reader appears to have a verbal contract with the sellers, the terms of which can frequently be difficult to prove and so enforcement can be a problem,” she says.

    “The sellers accepted your payment of the full asking price, which should assist you, but did you pay by cash or cheque? And did you obtain a receipt? If you have physical possession of the horse this may also assist, but the sellers might say this was as a result only of the loan.

    “Once a contract has been concluded, any efforts to introduce new terms or conditions would be of no legal effect. On the basis of what you have told me, I believe the sellers are in the wrong here.

    “The passport is not a document of title,” she explains.

    “It belongs ‘with’ the horse rather than ‘to’ the seller and, strictly speaking, it may belong to the passport issuing authority.

    “Under Horse Passports (England) Regulations 2004, selling your horse without a passport is an offence. Prosecutions for breaches of the regulations would be brought by the local authority’s trading standards. Similarly, the purchaser of a horse is required to notify the passport issuing authority of the change of ownership within 30 days of purchase, and commits an offence by failing to do so. This presents an obvious difficulty if you do not have the passport, but if you know the issuing authority, it may be helpful to let it know the position.

    Buying horses without a passport is not an offence, but it is inadvisable to do so. You cannot move the animal to the premises of a new keeper or out of the UK, compete with or breed from the horse without the passport, to do so would be to commit an offence.

    “It is important to obtain the passport as soon as possible and this may best be achieved by contacting your local branch of trading standards if the sellers will not cooperate,” explains Elizabeth.

    “Alternatively, you may wish to agree a fee with solicitors to write a letter seeking delivery of the passport as a preliminary to the issue of court proceedings for specific performance of the sale contract.”


    Andrew Jackson law firm Tel: 01482 601310 www.andrewjackson.co.uk

    This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (13 December, ’07)

    Looking for horses for sale?

    Need legal advice?

    Buying a new horse? Compare insurance prices at horseandhound.co.uk/insurance

    You may like...