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Boat Buying

5: Legal matters

Once you’ve found a suitable boat, the next stage is to make an offer. In the case of a bigger boat this will need to be subject to a survey, valuation, evidence of title, and finance approval (if appropriate). You will also need an original tax paid invoice if the purchase price is inclusive of tax.

A written contract is vital when large sums of money are involved — it should be signed by both parties, and is usually accompanied by a 10 per cent deposit — once the sale price has been agreed. The RYA has a standard contract that members can download via the association’s website, although if the boat is sold through an Yacht Brokers Designers and Suveyors Association broker, then the YBDSA standard contract will normally be used. You should expect a new boat to be sold under the British Marine Federation’s standard contract.

There are a few potential legal pitfalls of which purchasers may fall foul when buying a boat. Firstly, does the person selling the vessel actually own it? Are there any encumbrances, or other charges such as unpaid mooring fees, repair bills, loans or marine mortgages against it?

The sale of a dinghy is usually a much less formal process than that of a yacht. However it’s equally important to do as much as possible to check that the person you’re buying from does actually own the boat. A case on the Isle of Wight a couple of years ago demonstrates the extent to which fraudsters are happy to operate in potentially very public situations. Three boats were ‘sold’ from a club dinghy park, by someone who didn’t own them. The crime wasn’t noticed until the new ‘owners’ had taken the boats away and one of the rightful owners discovered his boat missing and informed the police.

Checking stolen boat websites such as to find out whether the boat you’re considering has been reported stolen is a sensible precaution. Note that as well as checking the sail number you should also check the hull number — usually found on the transom — matches this. The RYA recommends that you should check with the vendor’s sailing club, mooring provider or boatyard for written conformation that the vendor does indeed own the boat. The association also recommends checking title by writing to the marine finance houses, and the vendor’s insurance company to obtain, duplicate certificates going back five years.

Previous page:4 Shared ownership

Anyone who goes down this route should make certain they do so on a formal basis

Next page:6 Insurance and modifications

Don't be tempted to make changes to the boat straight away

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