Stablemen’s Lien Laws – Part 1: What They Are
Almost all states have laws on the books that are specifically designed to give lien rights to horse boarding stables. Some of these laws also give special lien rights to people who provide services to horses, such as veterinarians or farriers. These laws are often referred to as “stablemen’s lien laws” or “agisters lien laws.” They differ widely across the country and usually explain:
- Whether a stable can have a lien on a boarded horse.
- How the stable can secure a lien on a boarded horse.
- How many months must pass without payment of board before a stable can enforce its lien rights by selling the horse or by sending notices announcing a sale.
- Whether the stablemen’s lien sale must take place through a public auction, “public sale,” private auction on the stable’s property, or through other means.
- What procedures, if any, the stable must undertake before the horse can be sold to satisfy the debt. For example, in some states the stable must send special notice letters to the non-paying horse owner. Other states, such as Ohio, require the stable to advertise legal notices of the forthcoming sale in the local newspaper. A few others, such as California and Massachusetts, may require the stable to go to court and ask a judge to approve a lien sale before it takes place.
- Who must conduct the sale. Some laws requires a court officer to do this, and others may allow a public auction sale).
- Whether the stable may insist on keeping the boarded horse in its possession before the sale occurs. For example, Wisconsin and Michigan are two of many states that allow stables to keep possession of the boarded horses until they have been fully paid.
- What, if anything, the stable must do after the sale if the sale brings in more money than the amount of the debt. Some states, such as Texas, require the stable to refund any excess money to the horse owner.
What is a Lien?
At the heart of the stablemen’s laws is a lien. A “lien” is a legal claim to hold onto or to sell certain types of property belonging to someone else, as security for payment of a debt. When applied to a horse, the lien makes the horse become collateral to secure the payment of board (and sometimes, depending on the law, to secure payment of related charges, such as training fees). Those who hold liens often have the power to hold onto the property and to keep it from being sold, transferred, or moved. What also makes liens especially powerful is that they can potentially allow the one who holds them the right to sell off the property.
These laws can be complicated and vary widely from state to state. Stables seeking to utilize these laws for a non-paying boarder must follow the applicable law to the letter. Legal counsel can be a must. Part II, which I will publish next week, discusses how these laws differ.
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
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