How to Write a Demand Letter
Authored By: Northwest Justice Project
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
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 maintain a personal relationship with that person? Is it a contractor, business, or person with whom you may have future dealings?
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 of all your communications with the other person/company. Write down the date, time, 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.
Type your letter. If you do not have a computer or typewriter, try to get access to one. Many public libraries have computers you can use for free or a small charge.
Concisely review the main facts. State detailed facts in time order.
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 figure.
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. Keep a copy of post office receipts.
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. If you end up in small claims court, you can use the return receipt and proof of delivery to counter any claim that your opponent did not receive the demand letter.
Below are letters you might write an auto repair shop for doing a shoddy repair job and a contractor who botched a remodeling contract.
Tucker's Fix-It-Quick Garage
Dear Mr. Tucker,
On May 21, 2017, I took my car to your garage for servicing. Shortly after picking it up the next day, the engine caught fire because you did not properly connect the fuel line to the fuel injector. Fortunately, I was able to douse the fire without injury. As a direct result of the engine fire, I paid the ABC garage $1,281 for necessary repair work. I enclose a copy of their invoice.
In addition, I was without the use of my car for three days and had to rent a car to get to work. I enclose a copy of an invoice showing the rental cost of $145.
In a recent phone conversation, you claimed that the fire was not the result of your negligence and would have happened anyway. You also said that even if it was your fault, I should have brought my car back to your garage so you could have fixed it for less.
I had the damage you caused repaired at a commercially reasonable price and am prepared to prove this by presenting several higher estimates by other garages.
Please send me a check or money order for $1,426 by July 15. If I do not receive payment by that date, I will promptly file this case in small claims court. Assuming I receive a judgment, which will be part of the public record available to credit agencies, I will promptly follow all legal avenues to collect it. You may reach me during the day at 555-555-2857 or in the evenings until 10 p.m. at 555-555-8967.
Beyond Repair Construction
You recently did replacement tile work and other remodeling on my downstairs bathroom at 142 West Pine Street, here in Seattle. As per our written agreement, I paid you $4,175 upon completion of the job on May 17, 2017. Only two weeks later, on June 1, I noticed that the tile in the north portion of the shower had sunk almost half an inch, with the result that our shower floor was uneven and water pooled in the downhill corner before eventually going down the drain. In our phone conversations, you claimed that the problem was in my imagination, was my fault, and was too minor to deal with.
I paid for a first-class remodeling job, and I expect to receive it. Please contact me within ten days to arrange to pay me $1,200 (the cost of redoing the work per the enclosed estimate from ABC Tile) or to arrange to redo the work yourself. If I do not hear from you by June 15, 2017 I will promptly file in small claims court.
This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. This information is current as of August 2017. © 2017 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014. (Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)