The pitfalls of buying horses abroad
There has been an increase in disputes involving equines purchased overseas
EXPERTS have issued advice to owners buying horses abroad after an increase in international purchase disputes.
When issues arise involving a horse bought outside the UK, buyers need to be aware that the sale could fall outside the jurisdiction of our legal system.
Liz Court bought a £6,500 mare from France in May.
Ms Court told H&H: “I made it clear any horse I bought had to be vetted, and I had a text saying she’d passed. I didn’t see the documentation because the seller said it would come with the horse.”
No certificate arrived, and Ms Court said the seller eventually admitted no vetting took place. The mare failed a pre-purchase vetting in the UK and was returned.
“I had to pay for her to be returned when she wasn’t fit for
purchase,” said Ms Court.
Ms Court, who was refunded the cost of the mare minus a
£400 currency conversion fee, was not reimbursed for any of the associated costs, and instructed a solicitor after communication with the seller stopped.
“Because they’re in France, it’s really difficult,” said Ms Court. “We’ve sent four letters and they’re refusing to correspond at all.”
Ms Court estimates she has spent £3,500 in costs, transport and solicitor fees, but said she will not pursue the matter further.
“I can’t afford to take them to court,” she said. “I want people to be aware if they’re going to buy abroad, make sure people do what they say they’re going to do — ask for documentation before you pay and have a horse shipped.”
Hannah Bradley of The Equine Law Firm told H&H: “Buying a horse from abroad will usually involve uncertainty over the applicable court process. Many do not foresee they may need to navigate a foreign system if a problem arises.
“The correct forum to resolve any cross-border dispute will depend on where buyer and seller live. There are complex rules on how such disputes are managed.”
Ms Bradley said she has seen a 20% increase in disputes involving an international element in the past six months.
“EU legislation provides for circumstances where one or both parties live in a member state. The general rule is that a party living in an EU state is entitled to be sued in his own country.
“In theory, if a horse is bought by somebody based in England from an individual in Germany and a dispute arises, the buyer would need to bring court proceedings in Germany.”
EU law also makes separate provisions for individuals buying from dealers which, in general, allow buyers from EU states to sue dealers in their own countries, while the dealer may only bring proceedings in his home country.
If a defendant lives outside the EU further rules apply, as the claimant must get the English court’s permission to file a claim, and prove related issues.
Ms Bradley said parties can agree in a pre-sale contract which law will apply and which courts have jurisdiction to hear a dispute.
AMANDA GRAY, a managing associate who specialises in luxury assets at Mishcon de Reya LLP, told H&H the applicable jurisdiction and law clauses in contracts are often overlooked.
“This will be very important on practical and legal levels if there is a dispute,” she said, adding that this should also be a consideration for any contracts with third parties inspecting a horse.
“A contract is a legally binding promise so could be verbal, in a formal document or by email.
But a verbal contract leaves you exposed; there is no record of the terms agreed and it is down to each party’s account.
“With decisions on the law and jurisdiction, a buyer will want evidence of what they are buying, ideally to include warranties from the seller on the horse and an agreed road map in the event the contract goes wrong.”
Ms Gray said legal advice could help the buyer on understanding what their legal position would be under the contract, and in advancing the terms the buyer may want included.
She added that while disputes often do not get to court, resolving them can still be long and costly.
“If you do not have a written contract, it will of course be harder to argue your position if you believe there has been a breach,” she said. “If a solution cannot be reached, the next step is to seek legal advice from a professional with appropriate expertise in that jurisdiction.”
Buyers need to be aware that salesabroad could fall outside British courts’ jurisdiction. Library image
Edited by Eleanor Jones Share your news storyCall 01252 555021Email firstname.lastname@example.org@ eleanor_jones_