No.  In states that have adopted the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), courts will probably hold that the possessory stableman’s lien is superior, even if the bank’s UCC Financing Statement was filed before the stableman took possession.

When Does the Conflicting Lien Situation Arise?  If someone borrows money to buy a horse or horses, the bank will often require the borrower to sign a security agreement pledging the horse(s) as collateral on the note.  When the borrower stops making payments on the loan, the bank normally will repossess the horses and sell them to foreclose on the note.  In some instances, when a borrower stops paying the bank, they also stop paying the boarding facility that is taking care of their horses.  The nonpayment of board gives the boarding facility a statutory stableman’s lien on the horse(s) as long as the boarding facility maintains possession.  Let’s assume the bank’s lien was first in time–i.e. the bank lent the purchase money to the owner and filed a UCC Financing Statement before the boarding facility took possession of the horses. The question becomes, who is entitled to the first lien on the horses…the bank or the stableman?  Also, is the bank entitled to come onto the boarding facility’s property and repossess the horses?

Under Section 9.333 of the UCC, the Possessory Lien Has Priority.  Section 9.333 and its Official Comment under the Texas version of the UCC states that "the possessory lien has priority over a security interest unless the possessory lien is created by a statute that expressly provides otherwise…the possessory lien takes priority, even if the statute has been construed judicially to make the possessory lien subordinate."  This means the bank’s lien, even if prior filed, is subordinate to the stableman’s lien.

WARNING–Courts May Follow Old Cases.  Even though the UCC is clear on this, a trial court in one of my cases found that the stableman’s lien was subordinate to a bank’s security interest.  The court cited Blackford v. Ryan, 61 S.W. 161 (Tex. Civ. App. 1901)(holding that a bank’s pre-existing security interest is superior to an agister’s lien when a horse was placed in a stable without the bank’s knowledge).  This case, as well as several other pre-1930 Texas cases with similar holdings, interpreted the common law agister’s lien and not the statutory lien under Section 70.003 of the then non-existent Property Code.  These cases were also decided before Texas adopted the UCC.  But the cases are still presented in Texas Jurisprudence and other legal treatises as being current law.  There are many cases that have found the possessory lien to be superior when it comes to garagemen keeping automobiles under Section 70.003, but no Texas cases involving stablemen.  Despite the current lack of appellate review on the issue, I think most courts will defer to the UCC and the car cases and hold that the stableman’s lien is superior.

Texas law provides liens for two specific types of services provided to horse owners: boarding services (the stable keeper’s lien) and breeding services (the stock breeder’s lien).   This blog provides an overview of the stable keeper’s lien.

How does a stable keeper’s lien work? The Texas stable keeper’s lien, also known as an “agister’s lien,” is a possessory lien that applies when one person takes care of horses or other livestock of another by providing board or pasture for the horse or other livestock. If you run a stable or keep other people’s horses on your land or land you are leasing, you may keep possession of the horse until your board bill is paid by the horse owner. If the nonpayment persists, you can have the horse sold to collect the amount owed.

How do I foreclose on a stable keeper’s lien? Your foreclosure has to comply with Section 70.005 of the Texas Property Code. Under that section, you must: 1) have possession of the horse for 60 days after the date the charges accrue; 2) make a written request to the owner to pay the unpaid bill; and 3) if the charges are not paid on or before the 11th day after you made demand for payment, you may sell the horse at public auction after giving the horse owner 20 days’ written notice.

What if someone is interested in buying the horse? Can I sell it to them or does it have to be sold at an auction? Texas law provides that you must sell the horse at a public sale. This is to prevent boarding facilities from selling a horse worth a lot of money to a friend for much less than the horse is worth, just to satisfy the debt. To get around the public auction requirement, boarding facilities can draft clauses into their boarding agreements allowing them to sell to horse by private treaty. The boarding contract may also provide for interest and late fees for past-due board.

My boarder left a lot of tack at my barn and did not pay their board. Can I keep or sell the tack to satisfy the bill? No. The stable keeper’s lien only covers the horse itself. Boarding facilities may not hold tack or other equipment as security for payment of past-due board. Again, a boarding facility may draft a clause into their boarding agreement allowing them to keep or sell tack or other equipment belonging to a boarder who does not pay their bill.

This entry only addresses the current law in Texas.  The University of Vermont’s website, Equine Law and Horsemanship Safety, provides a list of agister’s lien statutes in other states
(scroll to bottom to find your state).