Can a verbal contract between boarder and barn owner hold up in court? I had a verbal contract with a boarder with 2 horses, that I require a 30 day notice when leaving or I charge a full months board on each horse. This boarder left with only a 3 day notice without paying the fee for not giving me a 30 day notice because she failed to mention to me that she was on a waiting list for another barn.
Of course she was too much of a coward to tell me to my face so she sent me a text message saying that she would leaving but thanked me for taking such good care of her horses, and when I replied minutes later that she had still had to pay me a full months board on each horse for not giving notice and she never responded back. Since her brother in-law was the actual owner of the second horse and mailed his board checks on the first of the month (he told me on the day the horses came here that if his horse needed anything to go through his sister in-law because he had up coming surgeries wouldn't ever be out) I called him the night before at 9pm to make sure he was aware that I required them to pay since they were leaving without a notice and he acted like he didn't know what I talking about and that he would call his sister in-law about it.
Well the next morning, which was the day that they were to haul out, I received his check in the mail and when I went to cash it, he had already put a stop on it. Seemed kind of odd that 12 hours prior he claimed that he didn't know anything but seemed to have already placed a stop on his check. He obviously knew what was required of him before leaving and since it took 2 days for his check to reach me and it already had a stop on it when I got it, it's clear he was lying to me on the phone. So when the woman came to get the horses I told her that there was a stop put on that check and that I needed to be paid. Her exact words were "Its OK because I have your money in my pocket". I knew that I could not legally hold her property and she did too, so she loaded her horses and quickly handed me an envelope but before I had a chance to open it she was in her truck and pulling away. I knew that all the money wasn't there, so when I opened it and there was only enough money to cover the 2 horses for 4 days of board inside I was beyond mad that these people were that deceitful after all I had done for them.
Its obvious that they both scammed me but my question is, between all our texts, phone calls, copy of checks and Facebook messages that clearly show that they boarded at my barn and that she never mentioned being a wait list for another barn. Can I take them to small claims court for the remaining amount of money that they owe me for not giving me a 30 day notice? It's not entirely about the money but the principle and letting them know that they can't go around doing this to barns. Even if I have to make the woman lose a day of work to go to court, I feel that I would at least make that point. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated.
As a barn owner who has had boarders, I'll put it this way. Do you want all the bad mouthing and negative talk that trying to hold them to that 30 day notice is going to cause? If you are doing boarding for a living, I wouldn't want someone who has moved getting mad and talking negatively about me to other potential boarders. I'd rather they said, "Well, she was very nice and took great care of my horses. We moved for convenience sake, and she was nice enough to waive the 30 day notice.".
I had a 30 day notice in my contract but I never once tried to enforce it. Most of the folks who left here left because they were moving out of the area or because they sold their horse, which I also helped them do. Obviously, if the horse is for sale and sells, they can't exactly give 30 days notice, or if they get moved because of a job, and they didn't know they were going to have to relocate, they can't really do it. It's nice if someone actually does let you know, because then you can advertise an opening before they're gone, if you want to get a new boarder.
And always, always, always have the contracts in writing. If you go to court and try to collect your money, the judge is probably going to have something to say about your lack of professionalism or business sense because of relying on a verbal agreement.
After all the crazy stories I've read here and a couple of the absolutely INSANE situations I've seen personally, I wouldn't give notice at all. I'd pull up, load my horses and say I was going to a show, a clinic, a trail ride and off I'd go. Once I was gone, I'd call and say I wasn't coming back.
Here's a link to a thread I started about 30 day notice and crazy barn owners: Crazy Barn Owners Trying to Keep Horses
I'm not saying what your folks did was right, but obviously they felt they had to do what they had to do to get their horses out and to try to avoid a scene. I'd rather be magnanimous and wish them well and let it go than to have the drama and bad feelings.