Legal Questions and Answers for the Horse Community

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Rachel Kosmal McCart
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Abandoned Tack at Boarding Facility?

Q: My husband and I run a small boarding facility. From time to time, we have boarders who leave our facility. They take their horses with them, of course, but sometimes, they leave tack, blankets, halters and other items for months at a time, or they never return to pick them up at all. Are we required to store our former boarders?stuff? If so, for how long?

A: This problem is fairly common for boarding facilities. Many boarding stable owners try to prevent this problem by specifying in their boarding contracts that items left behind at the end of the boarding term will be stored for a fixed period of time (e.g., 90 days) at the boarder's expense. To avoid confusion, the contract should also state that after 90 days, the left-behind items will become the property of the boarding stable.

If your boarding contract does not currently address this situation, and you have left-behind equipment occupying valuable space, you may wish to send the property owner(s) a letter stating that you believe they are the owners of certain items (list the items) on your property and that if they do not remove those items by a certain date (e.g., two weeks), you will begin charging them a specified monthly storage fee (e.g., $100) until the items are removed. The letter should also specify that if the items are not removed within a specified period of time, they will become the property of the boarding stable. To minimize the possibility that the former boarders could claim they didn't receive the letter, you should send the letter via a method that provides for proof of delivery, such as Federal Express.

If you dispose of a former boarder's possessions without following the above steps, the former boarder may have a legal claim for conversion?against you, and the amount of potential damages would be the value of their property. In essence, conversion?occurs when one party who has been entrusted with the care of an item takes that item and treats it as his or her own. Even though you may not have specifically assumed any responsibility for the former boarder's items, the former boarder might have a reasonable expectation that they could leave items at your facility for a short transition period. Accordingly, it is advisable for boarding stables to have a documented process for dealing with left-behind items belonging to former boarders, and to follow that process.

About the Author: Rachel Kosmal McCart, the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, is a lifelong horsewoman and experienced lawyer. Equine Legal Solutions, the Legal Counsel with Horse Sense TM , offers a full range of legal services for the horse community, including dispute resolution, customized contracts and risk management assessment.
Copyright ©2008 Equine Legal Solutions and the Bay Area Equestrian Network. All rights reserved. The above article is the property of the Author and may not be duplicated or redistributed in any way without permission.