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An Overview: Horse Dealers and the Consumer Rights Act 2015
The term “dealer” could apply to anyone selling even a single horse if they have a horse-related business – they don’t have to be an actual horse dealer in the traditional sense.
All sellers are deemed to have given a warranty that they own the horse they are selling and that it is as described. Apart from that, a private seller’s only obligation to the buyer is not to mislead them. However, a dealer is deemed to give certain very important warranties.
Under the CRA, a dealer warrants that the horse is:
- Of satisfactory quality– this involves good general health, soundness in heart, eyes, wind and limb, freedom from vices and blemishes, safeness to ride and handle and general freedom from defects which you would not normally expect in a horse of that type, age and price etc.
- Fit for purpose– eg. a horse required for showjumping may need to be very sound but purely cosmetic blemishes may be irrelevant whereas a horse wanted for showing may need to be blemish free as well as sound.
- As described by the seller.
If any one of these warranties is breached, the buyer has a potential claim.
Burden of Proof
Normally a buyer has to prove their case. However, under the CRA if the buyer can show that at any time within 6 months of sale the horse does not conform to one of the warranties, the legal presumption will be that it was like that at the point of sale. The burden of proof will be on the seller to show that it did conform at the date of sale.
Examination and vetting
Most horses are tried out and vetted before purchase. The warranty of satisfactory quality does not apply to shortcomings either drawn to the buyer’s attention or which the buyer or their vet ought to have discovered on examination unless the defect was deliberately concealed. In contrast, the warranties of fitness for purpose and correspondence with description cannot be avoided by drawing the defects to the buyer’s attention or insisting on examination by the buyer or a vet, but the buyer must still have relied on the seller’s skill and knowledge.
Private sellers will be held to what they say
Even private sellers have to be circumspect about what they actually say about the horse. All sellers will be held to any statements they actually make in an advert or to the buyer. Any false statement (however innocent) by the seller which encourages the buyer to buy is a misrepresentation which can give grounds for a refund of the price and additional damages. Silence is not a misrepresentation and there is no positive duty to disclose faults provided the seller does not mislead or conceal defects.
Buyer sending the horse back
Breach of warranty or misrepresentation generally entitles the buyer to reject the horse and get their money back. Once a buyer is aware of the defect, they can lose the right to reject by continuing to treat the horse as theirs or even simply by delaying returning it.
For advice please email our experienced equine law solicitor Jill Headford at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01392 207020.