How to Write a Demand Letter in 10 Steps
1. Understand the Purpose of a Demand Letter
Sending a demand letter costs much less and is faster than filing a lawsuit. In the best-case scenario, a formally worded demand letter often convinces the other party to pay, as they too want to avoid a lawsuit. Don’t know how to write a demand letter? Create a FREE demand letter with JusticeDirect.
Proof for Court
In the event you do not get the desired response, the demand letter will serve as proof to a judge that you notified the defendant of the money owed. The judge needs to see that you requested payment before filing a lawsuit against the defendant.
Why NOT Send a Demand Letter?
Although courts generally require that you demand the return of your property prior to filing a lawsuit, there are some exceptions to that rule:
- The borrower has intimidated you.
- The borrower has harassed you.
- You possess a restraining order against them due to a fear of physical harm.
If these apply to you, the court will not mandate that payment is demanded before the lawsuit is filed.
2. Type Your Letter
Exhaust All Options
If you lack access to a computer or printer, find another way:
Ask a friend or family member if you can use their computer and printer.
Local libraries usually have computers and printers available to the public.
If you are a student, you may be able to print at your university.
Print at a shipping provider such as FedEx or UPS
Hotels often have computers and printing available for guests and the public.
Hand-writing a Letter
If you are unable to type or lack access to a computer and printer, you can hand-write the demand letter. Write as neatly and legibly as you can. If you have to hand-write the letter, find a way to make photocopies. Local libraries and convenience stores almost always have photocopy machines, or you could visit a printing shop.
3. Be Polite and Professional
The tone and manner used in demand letters are of utmost importance. Keeping a calm, polite and professional tone can have a palpable impact on the outcome of your issue.
Likelihood of Resolution
While emotions may be running high, adding fuel to the fire will only hurt chances of someone paying the money you are owed. Avoid letting any frustration, anger, or hostility come through in your writing. Stay objective and straightforward when putting together the components of your letter.
Impression in Court
Remember that your dispute may end up in court. If so, a judge will read the letter demanding payment sent to the defendant. Do not put yourself at a disadvantage by writing personal attacks, insults, or threats against the other party.
4. Gather Your Facts
This is your opportunity to tell your side of the story. Describe your side of the story and how events transpired such that you are now owed money by the other party. Remember to approach this objectively and concisely. Important events may include:
A time when you and the other party came to some kind of agreement
The way(s) that you honored the agreement
The way(s) that the other party violated the agreement
Bad or negative outcomes resulting from the agreement not being honored
Chronological organization is key when it comes to your facts. To the best of your ability, describe each part of your story in the order that it happened and be clear about the date each event occurred. Important dates may include:
The date when you and the other party came to some agreement
The date when you performed your side of the agreement
The date when the other party violated the agreement
The date when you experienced damages or some negative impact as a result of the other party not performing their end of the agreement.
The evidence you are able to include in your demand letter is essential. Do your best to look through any and all papers and communication methods that definitively show the things you say happened and happened when you claim they did. Proof can be demonstrated in many ways, some to keep in mind are:
Written contract or signed agreement
Printed emails or texts
Transcripts of a voicemail or video
Do not delete these files in case you do go to court!
5. Make a Clear Demand
How do you make a clear demand in your demand letter? State clearly what you want the borrower to do. If you lent an expensive tool or a car, is the only option for the borrower to return the item, or would the cash value suffice instead? This is the time to ask for what you want and explain how you arrived at that request.
Calculate the damages you want to ask for, and don’t forget to include interest if it is appropriate. To calculate how much you are owed, you will need to provide 3 sets of information:
- How much the other party should have given you (money owed, or monetary worth of a product/service)
- How much you did receive?
- Any additional money you lost due to the actions of the other party
6. Set a Deadline
Be clear about when the payment or return of the property should happen. Include information on where, when, and how the person can pay or return your property.
7. Emphasize Legal Action
Show the other party that you are serious by letting them know that you will pursue quick and swift legal action should they choose to deny your request for payment.
8. Keep It Concise
How long should your demand letter be? There is no set standard for the length of a letter demanding payment, however, you should keep all sections clear and straight to the point. If your case ends up in court, you do not want anyone digging through multiple papers to get your story straight.
9. Make Copies
Keeping copies of your demand letter and evidence for yourself is always good, but the real benefit is seen if you end up pursuing a lawsuit. Saving and organizing everything will leave you in a great place to prepare for your day in front of a judge.
10. Send Via Certified Mail
Your demand letter is done and ready to send! It cannot be stressed enough that USPS Certified Mail is the best way to do this. It may be obvious at this point that any time you can establish a paper trail in this process, you want to proceed with that option. In this case, you will have a receipt with tracking information proving that you sent your request to the other party should you ever need it.
Better yet, let JusticeDirect do all the work for you! Rather than use a generic sample demand letter or a template, JusticeDirect will guide users step-by-step to prepare and send, via USPS Certified Mail, a professional and personalized demand letter.