A well constructed demand letter can be a very powerful document.
Demand letters can be formal letters written by an attorney on behalf of a client demanding payment or some other action from another party. They can also be less formal and written by one individual to another demanding payment. In both instances they are an attempt to avoid litigation and expedite a resolution.
While demand letters may be written for several reasons, most are written when someone owes you money. There is no single format for drafting a demand letter but there are certainly guidelines that can help you draft an effective one. If done correctly, a demand letter can be just the thing to persuade the other party into paying up.
In general a demand letter includes: 1) what payment or action is demanded; 2) why the payment or action is being demanded; 3) what are the consequences for non-payment; and, 4) a time limit time limit to comply with the demand letter.
Before you begin putting the letter together, consider the relationship you have with the person who owes the money. Is this a friend or relative. Is it important to maintain a personal relationship with that person? Is it a contractor, business, or individual with whom you may have future dealings? This consideration is important because it will help to determine the tone of the demand letter. If you are not going to hire an attorney to do this for you, it’s important to draft the demand letter with as little emotion as possible. As they say, stick to the facts.
The first part of the letter will be a review of the facts that led to the writing of the letter. The facts are important because this is the basis of your demand. Getting the facts straight now is also good preparation should the matter end up in court.
Next you will need to discuss why the person owes you money. Did you do a job for him/her and they never paid you? Did he/she borrow money and refused to pay you back? Did they destroy your property and refuse to pay you? This section should be clear and concise.
Then you will outline what the consequences will be for non-payment. Remember here that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar; so you want to be polite and respectful. The demand letter is by nature a threatening document– so there’s no need to express any extra hostility. Hopefully this will help you reach some agreement. Perhaps, instead of threatening to take them to court, you could suggest meeting to discuss options or perhaps enter mediation. Remember that an angry letter may bring about an angry response and further delay the resolution. If the goal is to put the matter to rest as quickly as possible, writing a nasty demand letter is not the right approach.
Finally, the last component of the demand letter should be a time limit. Give him/her a reasonable time frame to pay the debt or agree to a payment schedule. Make it very clear that he/she must respond to the letter within a set time period. If you leave it ambiguous, you are setting yourself up for further delays.
The Law Insider Sample Demand Letter
75 Debt Lane
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
21 June 2010
Dear Mr. Owe:
In June of 2009 I painted your home for a contract price of $10,000. While you made the first two of the contract payments as agreed, you have refused to make the final $3,500 payment. I have made repeated attempts to collect, but you have not come forward with the money. I am requesting that you make the payment in full by 21 July 2010, or make specific arrangements to pay the balance.
I will expect a response to this letter no later than 1 July 2010. If this matter is not resolved by the time specified above, I reserve the right to commence legal proceedings to recover the debt without further notice to you and this letter may be tendered in court as evidence of your failure to pay.
56 Money Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
The letter that you write should be professional looking – it should be typed on a computer or typewriter. Now that the letter is written and sent, sit back and wait patiently during the time you have offered. Don’t call and harass or try to intimidate the other party.
Remember, you do not need a lawyer to write your demand letter; you can write the demand letter yourself and save yourself the cost of hiring an attorney. However, if you have any reservations about drafting a deman letter yourself, you should at least talk to attorney about your situation. If you have any questions about our sample demand letter, feel free to shoot us an email.
Sample Demand Letter #2
Re: Collection of Fees for [ITEMS]
Your outstanding debt is now [X] days passed due. As you know, failure to pay this debt is a breach of contract. At this point in time we are prepared to proceed with legal action. Any future correspondence will come directly from our attorney.
We would like to extend a final opportunity for you to to avoid an escalation of this matter. Accordingly, please remit full payment within ten (10) days of this letter.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly.
Sample Demand Letter #3
15 October 2012
Ms Agatha Smith
27 E. Madison, #34
Miami, Florida 33139
RE: OUTSTANDING MONEY
Dear Ms. Smith,
I am writing to inform you that invoice # XXXX is past due.
The total amount owing is $7,592. This amount relates to website design and hosting services that I provided by agreement with you for 20 hours each month in the months of May, June and July 2012. I refer your to the attached invoice dated August 10, 2012 that was due for payment by September 1, 2012.
I ask that you pay the entire outstanding amount by October 15, 2009. Your failure to pay this amount will force me to escalate the matter. If payment is not received on time, I will start legal action against you to recover the debt without further notice. Legal costs and interest may be added to the debt.