Everything You Need to Know About Demand Letters
Updated: Apr 27
A demand letter is a great way to show that you are serious about getting your money or property back. Sending a demand letter is easier and cheaper than going to court. But if you do have to go to court, a demand letter is also the best way to prove to a judge that before you filed your lawsuit, you asked for your property to be returned to you.
Why Send a Demand Letter
The law generally requires you to make a demand prior to filing a lawsuit. You are allowed to make this demand verbally, in person, or over the phone. By now, it is likely that you have already tried a verbal request and it was not successful. If you only verbally deliver the demand, there is a possibility that in court, the borrower will deny having spoken with you. You might find yourself feeling angry, defensive, and frustrated, all of which could make you look bad to the judge!
Even if you have a witness who saw you make the verbal demand, the witness then has to come to court to give evidence on your behalf. If your witness gets sick, decides not to provide evidence after all, or some other event prevents him or her from coming to court, you could find yourself with no one to back up your story.
To get the best value from your demand for the return of your property: put the demand in writing. Sending a written demand letter ensures that you have objective evidence to support your claim that you asked for your property back before you filed the lawsuit.
Note: While courts generally require that you demand the return of your property prior to filing a lawsuit, there are some exceptions to that rule. For example, if you have been threatened or harassed by the borrower, and you are afraid of being physically injured, the court will not require you to demand payment before filing your lawsuit.
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Writing a Demand Letter
The tone and manner that you decide to use in your demand letter may depend on what happened when you tried the "friendly approach" as discussed in How to Decide Whether to Sue or Not.
You should also take into account how well you know the person, how urgent it is that you get your property back, and how upset you really are that the agreement has not concluded successfully.
The demand letter is a chance to let your voice be heard. But treat writing the demand letter as an opportunity to get organized. Think about and write down the important facts of the entire situation. Check your papers and find important evidence, such as written documents and receipts. Look through your emails and print out any that have to do with the agreement. Even if you have a signed written agreement, collect all the supporting evidence from every source. Check your phone to see if any messages still exist in which you mention the agreement. If you need assistance with your demand letter, visit us at JusticeDirect.com.
All this information is the backbone of your case. The more organized you are, and the more evidence you can identify and have in your possession, the better you will know your case, and the stronger you will feel about your case.
Gather information to help you draft the demand letter:
Write down the facts of your case, such as: On what day did you agree to loan the person the money or property? How much money or what property did you agree to lend? On what day did the actual loan take place? What were the terms of repayment or return? Did you have a written agreement or a verbal agreement?
Calculate the damages you want to ask for, and don’t forget to include interest if it is appropriate.
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 you accept the cash value instead?
Be clear about when you want the payment or return of the property to happen. Include information on where, when, and how the person can pay you or return your property.
Knowing the main facts of your case will help you write stronger arguments and make your demand more persuasive. Some experts suggest that you write the demand letter as if you were preparing for court. The process of writing will help you to organize your thoughts and to know how solid your evidence is.
Explain the situation using the facts and evidence you gathered. Ask directly for your property or money, describe any damages, and state clearly what you want the borrower to do and when. Even though you are now aware of all the details, you may not want to include everything in the demand letter. After all, you aren’t in court yet. And do you really want to go to court? Or do you want to have your property back, and the issue concluded? A straightforward demand letter may allow you to get your property back and conclude the issue without going to court.
You should probably make it clear that if the person does not respond to this letter, you may have no other choice but to take them to court. You may want to add that doing so will increase the damages that you will seek.
If you are having trouble drafting your demand letter, please visit us at JusticeDirect.com for more information and assistance.
Naming Defendants Properly is Key to an Effective Demand Letter
Sending a Demand Letter
A demand letter can be sent by one or more of the following methods, to make sure there is a record of its delivery:
Sent by regular USPS mail
Sent by USPS Certified Mail or Registered Mail
Scanned and sent by email
Sent by facsimile (fax)
Sent by private courier
Delivered personally by hand
For example, you could send a copy by certified mail, and also a copy by email.
The choice of method(s) depends on:
Relationship that you have with the person
Method that “feels right” given the current state of relations between you
Method that is your personal preference
Contact information that you have for the person
Amount of money you are willing to spend.
Key Things When Sending a Demand Letter
If you send the demand letter in the mail, consider going to the post office and asking for the Certified Mail service offered by the US Postal Service. It is better than regular mail because you will get a receipt to show that the letter was delivered. Keep that receipt and bring it to court as evidence that you sent the demand letter and that it was delivered.
If you want to send the demand letter via email, check your email program for a “read receipt” feature and turn it on, if there is one. This feature provides a notification to you when the person opens the email. (If your email does not have a “read receipt” feature, search for a free plugin that will provide proof that your emails were opened by the recipient.) Print out the notification, as well as a copy of the email from your “sent” email folder. Alternatively, if you cannot turn on reading receipts through your email program or through a plugin, just include yourself (“CC”) as recipient on the demand letter email so that you receive an exact duplicate of what the other person receives and print that out.
If you have access to a fax machine, you could fax the demand letter if you have the fax number of the person you are writing to. You may fax the letter, but most people use email these days.
If you can afford to do so, then consider using a private courier company to deliver the demand letter. You might be able to purchase a special service in which the envelope is delivered to and signed for by the person to whom it is addressed. As with every expense, keep your receipt. If you have to go to court and you win your case, the judge may award you the total of extra costs in addition to the main dollar amount that you seek – but only if you have receipts for every single penny that you claim you had to spend to get your property back.
If you can’t type or do not have access to a computer and printer, then you could 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. Keep the receipt even if it only costs you one or two dollars. These “one or two dollar” items add up.
Remember, simply asking for what you want might get you what you want. Preparing a demand letter is also a great way to help you organize your evidence and put together the strongest case possible should you decide to sue. A written demand letter is the best evidence to prove to a judge that you asked for your money or property before you went to court. Sending a demand letter by a delivery method that provides confirmation of delivery helps prove that you sent your demand letter, as normally required by law.
JusticeDirect.com to Help You Write and Send a Demand Letter
Quest for Justice (Q4J)'s first product, JusticeDirect Demand Letter, will help people without lawyers draft and send a customized letter demanding payment, free of charge. 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. The system helps users avoid common mistakes that often delay justice. Whether you are owed money or you are not happy with services or goods you already paid for, sending a detailed and professional demand letter is the first step to being taken seriously in the legal process and getting the justice you deserve. A simple, fast, and effective way to get your money back.
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