Here we remind horse owners of the dangers of “sold as seen” horse purchases following a spate of recent cases. The phrase is one that seems to be very widely misunderstood in the equine community as offering a cast iron protection for a seller.
Sellers often use “sold as seen” in an attempt to record that a buyer takes a horse in its existing condition with no guarantee of its performance. Sellers may believe it precludes liability if the horse is found to be not suitable. However, this is not always the case.
If you are selling as a dealer to a private individual, then the horse must comply with the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It must be of “satisfactory quality, fit for purpose” and in accordance with any description given. This does not apply if the seller has specifically disclosed a fault to a buyer pre-sale or if the horse has been inspected and the fault is openly apparent on inspection.
If selling as a private individual however, a horse must still be sold in accordance with any representations that you make. For example, if you advertised the horse as being “good to do in all respects” you can’t avoid liability for the horse not being “good to do” if you then sell the horse “as seen”. The Misrepresentation Act 1967 provides that any statements made to a buyer which cause them to buy the horse and which transpire to be untrue will entitle the buyer to damages.
A recent case involving a buyer who bought a Dartmoor pony for showing demonstrates this. The buyer was told the pony would be suitable for showing but when it arrived it was lame. The vet found that it had chronic laminitis with signs suggesting that this existed pre-sale. If told that the pony would be suitable for a specific purpose and that is what the buyer bought it for, you can refuse to accept on the basis that pony was clearly not as described.
Good advice is to have key terms in writing and always be extremely careful. Unlike with buying from a dealer, there are no implied terms as to the suitability or quality from a private seller and the buyer is expected to make appropriate checks in private sales. You have no right of return if you discover an issue in a private “as seen” sale. That does not, however, mean that private sellers can make inaccurate statements, as misrepresentations can be legally actionable against sellers but buyers are advised to ask more questions, preferably by email so there is a record of answers given. A full pre-purchase examination is always advisable.
Sold as seen is often considered as a way to pick up a bargain but buyers need to be aware that whilst that may sometimes be the case, if they don’t end up with what they thought they were ending up with they may have very little recourse.
For more information on equestrian matters please contact Frank Smith & Co Solicitors on 01242 801748 or www.franksmithandco.com