California Law Affects Buyers Sellers and Agents Involved in a Sale of Horses

Laura and Leo

Laura and Leo

For the most part, buying and selling horses has been done in pretty informal settings in the past.  Things have changed in California.  A CA statute now requires written documentation for horse sales. This will affect everyone buying or selling a horse or horses whether you are a private individual or a business.

Here is the new code:

California Business and Professions Code § 19525 now requires:

1. All horse sale transactions must be accompanied by a written bill of sale signed by both the buyer and seller or their agents.

A.  If an agent is acting on behalf of both the buyer and seller this “dual agency” must be disclosed in writing.                         B.  Any commission paid to an agent in an amount over $500 must be disclosed in the written bill of sale.

What should you do to be sure you comply with the new code?

You should use a well drafted bill of sale for all of your equine transactions.  Included in the bill of sale should be the specifics on any commissions being earned from the sale.  A bill of sale should be part of the transaction for sellers, purchasers, and agents alike.

Note that since the code was modified recently, as time goes by, the courts will interpret the statute on a case by case basis.  This will give shape to the full meaning and intent of this new change.

This new code speaks to a bill of sale only and gives no guidance to matters that might have a misrepresentation element to it.  There could still be a situation where the buyer or the seller becomes involved in a lawsuit—perhaps for other reasons such as fraud or misrepresentation.

What could happen if a transaction does not have a written bill of sale?

If someone claims to suffer a loss from the fact that this new code was not followed, decides to sue, and is successful in bringing this claim, the violation of this statute can result in the award of “treble damages” to the injured party.  Treble damages are damages that are three times the amount of actual damages suffered. For instance, if the injured party proves they suffered damages in the amount of $10,000, the new code could allow for up to $30,000 as an award.  A potential matter now has the possibility of a higher damages award and therefore, it might make the case more plausible to pursue in the first place.

Any agents, as well as buyers and sellers, involved in the buying and selling of horses should be aware of this new code and be certain to follow the guidelines.  The transaction, laying out commissions and pricing for both buyer and seller must be set forth with clarity.  If not, the agent could be sued for not putting it in a written format and as mentioned above, be exposed to having a treble damages award against them.

Diana G. Bicksler Esq. is a Principal of DGB Equine Law offering Legal and Business Assistance to the Equestrian Community at Reasonable Rates.  www.dgbequine.com 

CW 2012, DGB EQUINE LAW.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  DO NOT ALTER, COPY OR TRANSFER W/O DGB EQUINE PERMISSION

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