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Business Clinic: Who is responsible for maintaining the fences?

Whether you have a legal, tax, insurance, management or land problem, weekly farmersBusiness Clinic experts can help.

Here, Russell Reeves – partner, Thrings, advises on responsibility and liability in the event of a stock breakout.

See also: Business Clinic: how to register land in the event of loss of deed?

Q. If I pay a farmer to place my horse on his land, which one of us is responsible for proper fencing?

I searched to find the answer to this question.

There are many examples that it is the responsibility of the horse owner to keep the animal from straying onto the highway, but does that include maintaining a fence owned by a farmer who refuses to act on his own?


A. First, the owner of a horse can be held liable for damage caused by it under the Animals Act 1971.

This may be because he strayed into neighboring lands and caused damage; there are also many cases of horses causing road accidents where they have strayed onto the highway.

The owner can be held liable even if there was no negligence on his part, so there is an inherent risk in livestock ownership.

Therefore, measures must be taken to ensure that these animals cannot escape.

The Animals Act specifies that the responsible person is the owner of the animal or the person who has possession of it.

It will be a question of fact in the circumstances.

However, this can usually include both the owner of the horse and the owner of the land the horse is kept on.

This means you would likely be responsible for at least some of the damage caused.

Since you will have at least some liability, what you should consider is whether there would be a contractual claim against the field owner for failing to maintain the fences to protect you from this liability.

A well-drafted and negotiated agreement can compensate you for these liability risks and specify who is responsible for maintaining the fences and making sure the animal does not escape.

The contract provides clarity

A contract does not always need to be in writing to be enforceable.

However, it helps to clarify the duties of each party.

Usually this type of agreement will take the form of a grazing permit or lease.

In addition, certain terms may be implied into a contract by law, by the intention of the parties, or where a term would be necessary for the performance of the contract.

The outcome of a contract claim in the circumstances depends on what your contract says, what you have expressly agreed and what has been implicitly agreed between the two of you.

For example, did the farmer know that the field was leased for livestock use, and if so, was there an implied condition that the field would be suitable for that purpose?

As a result, they may be responsible for maintaining the fence.

In the event that your horse causes damage, I would recommend that you consult a lawyer regarding your liability.

In the meantime, it would be wise to approach the farmer to agree on a written contract outlining the distribution of responsibilities for escaped animals, and who is responsible for maintaining fences and gates to prevent animals from straying. ‘escape.

This will help create certainty for you in the event of a dispute.

This general principle applies to a wider range of animal arrangements, such as sheep or cattle, where farmers may be held liable for escaped animals.


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