Q: My husband and I have a small horse property and keep our 3 horses at home. Eventually, I would like my friend of many years to bring her 2 horses to live here as well. Because she would pay to keep her horses here, would I need to carry all the liability insurance that a boarding stable would? Does is make any difference if she were to pay just the cost of keeping her horse here, and we didn't make any profit?
A: Any time that you are charging someone to use your property, your regular homeowner's insurance probably will not cover your liability associated with that use. However, you should definitely check, as it could save you money if your homeowner's insurance does cover your home boarding situation! Unfortunately, whether you are making a profit or just covering your costs is immaterial when it comes to liability. Even 501(c)(3) non-profit businesses have liability for their actions.
However, because your boarding operation will be extremely small, the price of care, custody and control and general liability insurance will probably be quite affordable. You may wish to build the cost of that insurance into what you are charging for board, as it is an expense that you would not have if you were not boarding someone else's horse. Even though you may be confident that your friend will never sue you, she will have friends over to ride, see the horse, etc. and something could happen to one of those folks.
You may wish to review the insurance page at Equine Legal Solutions for more information on choosing equine insurance products.
In general, I advise my clients to take a belt and suspenders approach to running a horse-related business, no matter how small - have agreements in place to cover the situations you can anticipate and then have insurance to cover the situations you can't anticipate. The first step is to put good quality written agreements in place and make sure they are consistently executed. Even with a close friend, a written agreement that covers the roles and responsibilities in the boarding relationship can go a long way toward preventing misunderstandings, thereby helping to preserve your valuable friendship. I'd also suggest obtaining a liability release for visitors, so that when your friend brings others onto the property, she can have them sign this release. For more information about boarding stable agreements and liability releases, visit Equine Legal Solutions.