Lien On Me

Unpaid bills can be the ruin of any business. Whether you operate a large training stable or a modest boarding farm, the way you deal with the inevitable client who cannot, or will not, pay the board bill might decide whether your business
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 Unpaid bills can be the ruin of any business. Whether you operate a large training stable or a modest boarding farm, the way you deal with the inevitable client who cannot, or will not, pay the board bill might decide whether your business succeeds or fails. An obvious solution for providers of many services–simply quit the job, cut your losses, and go home–generally is not available to the person who boards or trains horses for others. Unlike a barn painter, who can limit his loss by refusing to finish the job when the client refuses to pay, a person who boards horses assumes responsibility for the welfare of the animals.

Horses neither know nor care whether their board bills are being paid. Blissfully unaware of their owners’ financial problems, they continue to eat, occupy a stall or pasture, and require veterinary care and farrier services. A trainer might be able to suspend the conditioning of a client’s horse until the bill is paid, but there are both legal and humane reasons to continue providing for the basic needs of the horses boarding at your farm. The result is a delinquent board bill that continues to grow, while your profit margin vanishes.

There are a few things you can do to prevent the problem from ever developing–screen your clients, keep your bookkeeping up-to-date and bill regularly, and address delinquent clients as soon as you become aware of a problem. Sometimes, though, your best efforts are not good enough, and you find yourself with a growing stack of board bills that you know will not be paid.

At this point, you might get some significant help from the laws of your state, if you know where to look. While specifics vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, statutes in many states provide for liens in favor of farms that board horses. Often termed "agister’s liens" (an agister is a person in the business of boarding livestock for a fee as a bailee), they give the lienholder the right to retain or dispose of property for satisfaction of a debt

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Written by:

Milt Toby was an author and attorney who wrote about horses and legal issues affecting the equine industry for more than 40 years. Former Chair of the Kentucky Bar Association’s Equine Law Section, Toby wrote 10 nonfiction books, including national award winners Dancer’s Image and Noor. You can read more about him at TheHorse.com/1122392.

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