Fortunately, unlike many states, Texas does not require lien holders to file suit or involve the courts in order to enforce the stable keeper’s lien—provided the enforcement provisions in the statute are precisely followed.
If you are boarding someone else’s horse, the board bill is 60 days or more past due, and you still have possession of the horse, you have an enforceable stable keeper’s lien under Section 70.003 of the Texas Property Code and may sell the horse in a public sale to satisfy the debt. In order to enforce a stable keeper’s lien, you must follow the following steps:
If the owner’s residence is not in Texas or not known, you do not need to send the notices set forth in Step 1 and Step 2 below. You may sell the horse at a public sale without notice to the owner—provided the board bill is at least 60 days’ past due and you have possession of the horse. Still, it is advisable that you keep some proof that you billed the customer and they did not remit payment before proceeding with the sale.
If the owner’s residence is in Texas and known, you start the lien enforcement process by sending a demand for payment by certified mail and regular mail to the owner’s last known address. Form Demand Letter.
If the owner does not pay the amount owed before the 11th day after the date you sent the demand letter referenced above, send out a notice of sale by certified mail and regular mail to the owner’s last known address. Form Notice of Sale.
Sell the horse at a public sale 20 or more days after you send the notice referenced in Step 2.
Note: If you are fortunate enough to get more for the horse at auction than you are owed, you must pay the overage to the owner. If the owner has moved out of Texas or its residence is unknown, you must pay the overage to the county treasurer of the county in which you boarded the horse.
Remember—the stable keeper’s lien is a possessory lien. This means that if you give the horse back to the owner before the bill is paid, the stable keeper’s lien is, practically speaking, no longer enforceable. In that case, you will need to file suit against the debtor to collect the unpaid board. This is why it is essential to obtain a written board agreement from every customer that contains the date you started boarding the horse, sets forth your fee for board, and includes an agreement that your customer will pay out-of-pocket expenses for care such as worming, farrier, supplements, and vet work.