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How to Write a Demand Letter

Resolving a Dispute Out of Court

This article explains what demand letters are and when they are useful.

If someone owes you money or you have a dispute with a person or company, you can send a demand letter to try and resolve the issue without going to court. This article explains what demand letters are and when they are useful, and provides some examples of common situations where you can use one.

What is a demand letter?

A demand letter is a letter you can send to try to resolve a dispute before going to court. Demand letters are often sent in cases where someone owes money or has failed to do something they had contracted to do.

Some types of cases even require you to send a demand letter before you are allowed to file a lawsuit. Even when a formal demand is not required before filing suit, sending a demand letter is still helpful because it can encourage the settlement of the dispute. After all, the other side likely wants to avoid court. It can also be helpful for you to think through the issue and organize your case, so you will be ready if you do have to go to court.

Do I need an attorney to write a demand letter?

You do not need an attorney to write a letter. However, having an attorney write it can ensure that it is properly drafted and complies with state and federal law. Sending a demand letter signed by an attorney may also make it more likely that the recipient takes it seriously. 

What should you include in your demand letter?

Establish facts. By writing down all relevant facts in the order they happened, you let people unfamiliar with the situation understand what happened. Include dates if you know them. Do not include irrelevant facts in your demand letter because they look good.  

Refer to evidence. If you know any evidence (like a contract), you should mention it. While you do not need to attach a copy of the evidence in your demand letter, you can include a copy if it is available. Highlight the pertinent part(s) you are referring to in the demand letter. 

Make a demand. Clearly state your demand. How much do you want them to pay you? What specific actions do you want them to take or cease to take? You can create an itemized list to support your demand if you have multiple demands. 

Set a deadline and establish a method of payment. Give the other party a reasonable and specific date to respond to your demand. For example, giving the other side at least seven business days to respond would be reasonable. Say when and how you expect to be paid if there is money involved (such as a payment plan). Do you want a check or just cash?

Offer a consequence. In the closing of your letter, let the recipient know that you will pursue legal remedies if they do not meet the demands in your letter. 

Note: Never threaten the other party with illegal activity or physical, mental, or other harm. You will be in danger of prosecution if you make threats. 

When should  you send a demand letter?

Send a demand letter after you have tried to resolve the problem informally (such as in person, by phone, or by email), but before you file a lawsuit.

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