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WashingtonLawHelp.orgWashington LawHelp

How to Write a Demand Letter

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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Someone owes you money. You bought something that does not work. A service provider did not perform the promised work. If you disagree with an individual or a company, and informal efforts to resolve your dispute fail, you should write a demand letter. #0316EN

Contents

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Introduction

Someone owes you money. You bought something that does not work. A service provider did not perform the promised work. If you disagree with an individual or a company, and informal efforts to resolve your dispute fail, you should write a demand letter. It may help persuade the other person to give you what you want.

Before you start writing the letter, think about your relationship with the person who owes the money. Is it a friend or relative? Is it important to keep a good personal relationship with that person? Is it a contractor, business, or person with whom you may have future interaction? This will help determine the letter's tone. You must draft the demand letter with as little emotion as possible. And-- stick to the facts.

Keep a detailed record and copies of all your communications with the other person or company. Write down the date, time, name of the person you spoke to, and the nature of all your conversations about the problem. Keep a copy of all contracts, bills, invoices, correspondence, statements, and so on. 

How do I write and send a demand letter?

  • Type your letter. If you do not have a computer, try to get access to one. You could ask a friend with a computer or check your local public library. Libraries often have computers you can use for free or a small charge, even during the COVID-19 pandemic when they print for you.

  • Concisely review the main facts. State detailed facts in the order they happened.

  • Be polite. Do not personally attack the other party. The more you attack, the more you invite the other side to respond in a similar tone. This reduces your chances of resolving the dispute.

  • Write with your goal in mind. The letter should encourage the other party to make a businesslike analysis of the dispute and think about questions such as:

    • What are my risks of losing?

    • How much time will a defense take?

    • Do I want the dispute to be decided in public?

  • Ask for exactly what you want. For example, if you want $2,000, do not beat around the bush. Ask for it. Explain how you arrived at this amount.

  • Set a deadline.  Give the other party a specific date to respond to your letter. Seven to ten days is typical.

  • End the letter by stating you will promptly pursue legal remedies if the other party does not meet your demand.

  • Make and keep copies. Make a copy of each letter before sending it.

  • Send your letter by regular and certified mail with a return receipt requested. Send it also by regular mail with tracking/delivery confirmation in case the recipient refuses to sign the receipt. Keep a copy of all post office receipts.

If you end up in small claims court, you can use the return receipt and proof of delivery to counter any claim that the other party did not receive the demand letter.

Download Sample Letters

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Last Review and Update: Feb 11, 2021