How to write a demand letter

October 23rd, 2012 by Briana Cummings

Last week the partner in my firm was approached by some women who wanted to press charges against a restaurant for discriminatory behavior. The partner’s first step after deciding to take the case was to prepare a demand letter.

A demand letter is simply what it says: a letter demanding payment or some other action from someone. An attorney might write a formal demand letter for a client as an attempt to avoid litigation over a dispute and expedite a resolution.

A demand letter generally includes:

  1. What payment or action is demanded.
  2. Why. Law out the facts that led to the writing of the letter. Make sure to get the facts straight; this is also good preparation in case you end up litigating the dispute. Then explain why the person owes money — have they failed to pay for a job done, have they botched a job you paid them for, etc.?
  3. The consequences of non-payment. Try to be polite and respectful. Try to keep emotion out of it.The demand letter is by nature threatening — especially if it comes from an attorney — so you don’t need to add to it with a hostile tone. Perhaps instead of threatening to take them to court you can suggest meeting in person or trying mediation. Keeping the right tone is extremely important. It is important if you are writing the letter to a person you want to maintain some kind of future relationship with the recipient. But it is also important if you just want to resolve the matter and never see the person again: an angry letter may just provoke an angry response, and will probably make it much much more difficult to get what you want.
  4. A time limit within which to comply with the demand. Make the time limit a reasonable one, and be extremely clear about what the time limit it.

See a sample demand letter here. You can find other sample demand letters for a variety of scenarios at Rocket Lawyer and FindLegalForms.com.

Source: “How to Write a Demand Letter,” The Law Insider, Sept. 30, 2010.

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