In these times it is ever increasingly sensible to have a formal livery agreement between yourself and your livery clients. Not only will this help you keep proper records of your clients, but also help both parties understand the limit of your services and have a clear and concise reference point in the event of any disputes. Your livery clients should have no genuine reason for not signing an agreement because it protects them too. Equally they shouldn’t have a problem signing up to the agreement if they already agree to the terms contained therein on a verbal basis.Below we detail just ten reasons why a contract should be used:
- Make clear what is included and what it costs. A contract clearly lays out fees and inclusions for your livery clients- when fees are due, what standard livery fees cover and the process for unpaid fees.
- It helps you keep records. It gives you a formal record of your clients and the horses on your yard. It can be used to keep records and details on all horses and clients and take copies if required of necessary documents for the identification of both the horse and the horse owner (utility bill, passport, vaccination certificates) to keep in a file for each client.
- It saves you from empty stables. It clearly lays out terms of notice that can be given if a livery client wishes to leave your yard, so you don’t get left in the lurch with empty stables at short notice when they could be earning you money.
- It helps you clarify your yard rules. It is a great way to get your livery clients aware of any specific rules at your yard (such as no Under 16’2, No Dogs, No Outside Instructors) and for them to formally acknowledge and accept these rules.
- It helps everyone know where they stand. A good contract will make clear your responsibilities, the responsibilities of the horse owner, and help protect you in claims against you that were negligent in your duties of care. Whilst verbal agreements are acceptable, the fact that a livery contract is accepted and signed by both parties can be used in your case in the event of non-payment of fees or disputes and as proof that a binding contract exists between you and your client to help recoup unpaid fees, resolve disputes and any associated costs.
- It will help you recoup costs of damages. Know who is responsible for damage to your yard- if a fence is broken, or electric fencing torn down and needs replacing at a cost do you as the yard owner pay for this or do you pass all or part of the costs to the livery whose horse caused the damage? Having this laid out clearly in a contract will save any disputes that may arise, and in turn save you necessary costs from damage caused by clients or their horses.
- It will protect your profit. For all-inclusive livery packages- such as full livery or schooling livery- it can help you specify the amounts of feed , foliage, exercise and suchlike included within the standard livery fees (i.e kg of hay or bedding per week, amount of hard feed, supplements, amount of exercise etc) which means you can reasonably increase fees and surplus charges for those who require more without being at a loss by not having this clear with your clients.
- It will help you retain your clients. It should help you retain your clients and have less turnaround of horses on your yard. If all livery clients know what to expect, and they agree to abide by the contract when they arrive there will be less disputes and in the event that any ‘issues’ arise these could be easily remedied by referring to a contract.
- It will protect the health of your yard. Having a firm process in place to have contracts with your livery clients, and checking certain aspects of the horses in your care or on your yard (such as vaccinations, worming etc) will reduce the likelihood of infectious diseases making their way on to your yard and costing you money.
- Its good business. Having a contract will convey your business as organised and professional. It will also ward off any unscrupulous clients who do not want to sign a binding contract and do not intend to pay fees nor abide by the rules!
And really the most obvious reason to have a livery contract with your clients is because it is FREE!
There is no need to get a solicitor to draw up a contract unless you really need to- you are simply writing down what is already covered in a verbal agreement. There are numerous template agreements that can be found online and amended to your exact needs for your yard, clients and circumstances. Other than the cost to print out a few sheets of paper and distribute to your cleints the process is easy.
It is quick and simple to introduce a livery contract to your clients new and existing. For existing livery clients simply issue them all two copies of the contract, already signed by you, and a covering letter explaining the reasons for the contract. Advise that this simply lays out the existing conditions they agree to on a verbal basis by being your livery client anyway and that this simply introduces this on a more formal basis to protect both parties. The sign both copies, retain one for themselves and return the other one to you along with copies of any documentation that may also be requested (such as passport, vaccination certificate etc). Give a deadline to ensure they are all received within a reasonable time frame and encourage your clients to speak to you if they have any queries or concerns.
For new clients you can show them a copy of the agreement when they view the yard, and ensure that this is signed and the necessary paperwork given to you within 7 days of them arriving on the yard.
A Sample Livery Agreement template can be found on the LiveryList website, along with another ‘Rules, Regulations and Considerations for Livery Yard Owners’ which may prove useful for inclusions to consider for your contract. Other template agreements, contracts and useful information on yard and equine management can be found on the Equine Guides pages.