Friday, January 18, 2008
The Boarder Who Just Won't Leave
As the costs of keeping a horse rise, more and more boarding stables are finding themselves with boarders who will not remove their horses at the end of a boarding relationship. Typically, the boarder knows the contract has been terminated. However, the boarder makes unfulfilled promises to move the horses and keeps offering excuses for why they are still there. The boarding stable owner usually has a good reason for terminating the boarding contract (such as the boarder not paying their boarding bills) and therefore is justifiably concerned when the horses remain on the property. What can they do to get the horses and the boarder off of the property?
The following steps have proven helpful for some of Equine Legal Solutions' boarding stable clients.
(1) Prior to the termination date, the boarding stable should make sure that it has provided the boarder with written notice of termination and has proof of delivery. The termination notice should specify a date and time by which the horses and all property belonging to the boarder must be removed. To give the boarder an incentive to move out on time, the letter should specify a daily charge that will be incurred for each day that the boarder's horses and/or personal property are still on the premises after the termination date. Do not send the notice via registered or certified mail, because most people know that no good news ever arrives that way, and they will not sign for the notice. Instead, send it via Federal Express. This important step will be valuable evidence to refute any credible argument that the boarder might have that they "didn't know" or that they didn't receive proper notice.
*If the horse is still on the property after the termination date:
(2) Secure the boarding stable grounds and refuse entry to the boarder, unless they arrive with a horse trailer to pick up the horse. If the grounds cannot be secured, secure the horse's stall or enclosure (but be sure not to create a fire hazard in doing so). Because the boarding relationship is terminated, the boarder no longer has a legal right to be on the property.
(3) Send a follow up letter via a method that provides for proof of delivery. In the letter, state that the boarder will not be permitted on the property unless they make prior arrangements with you to pick up the horse. Note that if they try to enter the property without your permission, you will call the sheriff.
(4) If the boarder comes onto the property without permission for any reason other than to pick up the horse, call the sheriff. Have a copy of your boarding contract termination letter handy. If you have sent a follow up letter, have a copy of that handy, too. Be sure to let the sheriff know that all you want is for the horses to be gone, and perhaps he or she will help talk some sense into the boarder.
(5) Continue to provide reasonable care (i.e., food and water) for the horse, but do not take any steps that may provide the boarder with a basis for legal claims against you, such as riding the horse, using the horse in riding lessons, allowing others to ride the horse, etc. Do not provide any extras, such as grooming, turnout, worming, farrier care, etc. If the horses are receiving better care at your facility than they would if the boarder took possession of them, the boarder will have no incentive to move them.
(6) Be the squeaky wheel. Call the boarder daily to find out when they will be removing the horses. Boarder won't take the calls anymore? Use a phone number they will not recognize. Know who their friends and relatives are? Call them to find out if they have any information about when the horses will be leaving.
(7) Follow the legal process to foreclose on your agister's lien. (See the September 21, 2007 entry for more information)