California Small Claims Demand Letter

Camila Lopez - Demand Letter - August 29, 2022

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Are you looking to write a demand letter before suing in California small claims? Before you can file a small claims court lawsuit in California, the court requires that you request your money or property back from the person you intend to sue. You will have to confirm you have done this when you file your lawsuit. One of the best ways to demand payment is to send a demand letter. In this article, we will go over how to write a demand letter, what to include in the demand letter, and answer frequently asked questions about California demand letters. ‍

Why is sending a demand letter before suing in California small claims important?

There are three main reasons why sending a demand letter before suing in CA small claims is important: 

  1. Before you can file a small claims court lawsuit in California, the court requires that you request your money or your property back

    from the person you intend to sue. Demand letters are an effective way of completing this requirement. If you demand payment verbally, it is hard to prove that you have demanded payment. 

  2. Demand Letters signal to the person or business receiving the demand letter that

    you are serious about the problem

    and are willing to spend time and money to get your money or property back. This may lead them to resolve the problem before suing in California small claims. 

  3. When you let someone know that you intend to go to small claims court

    if they don't return your money or property, it can have a big effect on them returning your money without having to go to court.

How to Demand Your Money with a Demand Letter 

In California, requesting your money can be done orally or in writing, but it is recommended you do so in writing. While in California there is no restriction against demanding your payment or property back via text message, writing a letter can sometimes be very effective. These letters are known as "intent to sue letters" or "demand letters."

Once you have sent a demand letter, keep it for your records. You can bring it to the California small claims court hearing and show it to the judge (especially if the person you are suing claims they didn't receive the letter).

How much time to give someone to respond to your demand letter?

Most people give the person receiving the demand letter about 7 to 14 days to respond to the letter. 

What to include in your California small claims demand letter

There are no California demand letter requirements for small claims. California small claims court’s does not require anything specific to be in the demand for payment letter, just require that you demand payment before filing a small claims lawsuit. A general tip is to avoid any direct or indirect threats, however, you can warn the other party that you will take legal action within a specified time period if they do not respond to your demand letter. 

Here are a few suggestions:

  • How much money are you owed? 

  • What is your contact information? How can the other party reach you?

  • Where should the other party send payment? 

  • Why you are entitled to a return of your money? 

Sample Demand Letter California

Below is a demand letter template to use that can help you construct your own demand letter before you file a California small claims lawsuit. This California demand letter template can be easily modified for your particular situation. For this sample demand letter, the dispute is between a homeowner and a repairman that damaged personal property. ‍

Sample Demand Letter California

How to Send a Demand Letter in California 

It is recommended you send the letter via email and mail. You can also consider texting a screenshot of the letter. For letters that you mail, consider the following:

  • Tracking.

    Make sure to track your demand letter. With tracking, you will know if the letter reached the person's mailbox.

  • Signature Required.

    You do not necessarily need a signature request. When you send a letter with the receiver's signature requested, the postal carrier

    must hand-deliver the letter

    and the person must sign for the letter. If you are sending this letter to an individual, it can be difficult for the post office to obtain the signature. 

Once the post office attempts delivery 2-3 times, the post office returns the letter to the sender as "undeliverable." We don't recommend sending demand letters to individuals at a home address with a signature required. A signature required mailing does work better when you send the letter to a business that is open during regular delivery hours.

Next Steps After Sending a Demand Letter in California 

How long after you send your California demand letter to the other party to sue them in small claims?

You may want to consider giving the other party 14 days to respond to you. Include this in your letter, and state that if they do not respond within that time, you intend to sue them. 

What to do if the Demand Letter doesn't work?

So you sent someone a demand letter and they still don't return your money or property back, now what? It is time to consider filing a lawsuit in California small claims court.

Types of cases that can be filed in California small claims court 

As long as there isn't another court better suited to hear the case, you can file your lawsuit in California small claims court. The most common types of small claims cases in California small claims court are:

  • Landlord/Tenant disputes over the security deposit.

  • Landlord/Tenant disputes over early termination of the lease.

  • Unpaid rent.

  • Roommate disputes.

  • Disputes over loans.

  • Contracts (written and oral).

  • Auto accidents.

  • Disputes over auto repairs.

  • Disputes over remodeling or home repairs.

  • Damage caused to property.

  • Unpaid bills.

Learn more about suing in California Small Claims

Frequently asked questions:

Is a demand letter required in California small claims?

No, a demand letter is not required before suing in California small claims but you are required to demand payment which you can do via a demand letter. 

How do you serve a demand letter in California?

For California small claims, you don’t have to “serve” a demand letter. You just have to send the demand letter. You can send it by mail, email, hand delivery, or you can text the demand letter. 

Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila is an attorney, consumer advocate, and certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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