A Primer on the Equine Bill of Sale...Beyond the Handshake

Once upon a time (in the not so very distant past) horse sales were completed with a handshake and an exchange of horse and money. In fact, if you look up the definition of “horse trade” you’ll find the following on the Merriam Webster website, “a clever and often secret agreement made by powerful people who are usually trying to get an advantage over others.” While some sales are still done the old fashioned way, buying or selling a horse without a bill of sale is both dangerous and in some states, against the law.  

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Florida, Kentucky and California all have statutes on the books that govern the sale and disclosure of horses. All three states require a bill of sale for the purchase of a horse in excess of $10,000. All three require that the bill of sale include the purchase price and the signature of the buyer, seller, or such party’s authorized agent. They also prohibit dual agency unless buyer and seller consent in writing. The statutes further prohibit agents from receiving payment of more than $500 from anyone other than their principal unless it’s disclosed in writing to both buyer and seller and the agent’s principal consents in writing to the payment. Florida’s statute goes further, requiring a list of elements and disclosures, along with specific statements pertaining to buyer and seller.

What happens if you don’t comply?

In Kentucky and California, the statutes provide for treble damages. Kentucky also allows for recovery of attorney’s fees and the cost of litigation. Florida provides for actual damages, attorney’s fees and court costs, plus civil penalties of up to $10,000. 

For horse sales in the remaining 47 states, equine sales generally fall under the Uniform Commercial Code, which is a comprehensive body of law governing commercial transactions, or consumer protection laws.

No matter where you live or buy horses, utilizing a proper bill of sale will protect you whether you are a buyer or a seller. While a quick internet search will result in a plethora of readymade forms, they are not tailored to your specific situation and may not even comply with state law.

Purchasing a horse is an expensive undertaking. Protect yourself by consulting with an attorney before you buy or sell.

Contact The Law Office of Catherine J. Merrill, P.A.