The pit­falls of buy­ing horses abroad

There has been an in­crease in dis­putes in­volv­ing equines pur­chased over­seas

Horse & Hound - - News Insider - By BECKY MUR­RAY

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.

OF­TEN OVER­LOOKED

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 eleanor.m.jones@ti-me­dia.com@ eleanor_jones_

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