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What is a Demand Letter (Free Templates Included)

Claudia Diaz - Demand Letter - September 24, 2023

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    A demand letter can be a powerful tool when trying to resolve a dispute with another person or business. In the article below, we go over what is a demand letter, what purposes they serve, provide sample demand letters, and more. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.

    What is a Demand Letter? 

    A demand letter is a formal communication used to outline a disagreement between two parties. In the demand letter, the person writing the letter asks the person receiving the letter to do or not do something specific. The goal of the letter is to start talking about the disagreement and resolve the dispute without having to go to court. 

    The key elements a demand letter should have are: 

    1. Your contact information. 

    2. A clear and concise summary of the dispute at hand.

    3. The actions you want the other party to take to resolve the dispute.

    4. Any other settlement offers and terms for a possible settlement. 

    5. A deadline to respond to your demands. 

    What is the Purpose of a Demand Letter? 

    The main purpose of any demand letter is to resolve a dispute. However, demand letters accomplish more than just that. Below we have outlined a couple of other reasons you should send a demand letter. For more, read our article on how demand letters work

    1. Demand letters serve as written notice of your intent to sue. Some state laws require you to first send written notice before suing someone in civil court for certain types of claims. We have seen this come up often with consumer protection claims in different states. For example, in Texas, before you can sue someone under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA), you have to send written notice of your intent to sue. 

    2. A demand letter can help you fulfill any demand for payment prerequisites. Depending on the state you are filing a lawsuit, you may be required to demand payment before filing. For example, in California, small claims courts, you are required to first demand payment from the person you are suing before filing. By sending a demand letter, you are completing this requirement. 

    3. A demand letter can help you better organize your case. If you end up filing a lawsuit, you will need to make a concise claim and prove your case to a judge. Writing a demand letter will help you think through every aspect of your case, including the important facts, your legal arguments, and the evidence you'll need to prove your claim. With a demand letter, you will be prepared for litigation even before you file a lawsuit.

    4. A demand letter signals to the person you have a dispute against that you are serious about resolving the dispute and that you are willing to take action. 

    5. Sending a written demand letter assures you there is a record of your good faith attempt to settle. This is also why we recommend you write out your demand letter instead of making any demands orally. By having a written demand letter, you have evidence you can use in case you do end up suing in small claims court. 

    What is an Attorney Demand Letter? 

    Lawyers do write demand letters for their clients if necessary or asked to do this. However, there is no formal requirement that states a demand letter has to come from an attorney. You can send a demand letter without a lawyer.  

    Consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to hire an attorney to write a demand letter: 

    • Cost. Hiring an attorney can be expensive, and the cost of drafting a demand letter may not be worth it for smaller claims. 

    • The complexity of your case. For some issues, you may need an attorney’s expertise in a specific area of law. For example, if you have a potential negligence or personal injury claim against someone, it may be worth discussing your claim with a lawyer, as this type of law can be quite nuanced. 

    • Credibility. A demand letter sent by a lawyer may have more weight and may be more likely to lead to a response.

    Learn more about the pros and cons of hiring a lawyer to write a demand letter

    Tips on How to Write a Demand Letter 

    We have written many articles on different topics all relating to demand letter writing. Here are some general tips we have gathered that can help you write your demand letter.

    • Tip #1. Do not use disparaging language. In general, try not to use language that will convey to the other party you are angry or hostile. 

    • Tip #2. Do use a professional tone. Remember, the goal of a demand letter is to be able to come to a settlement outside of court. You want your demands to be met. However, you do not want to further escalate the situation.

    • Tip #3. Avoid making threats. This letter could end up in court if you and the other party do not come to a settlement. Any threats or made-up facts can be used against you later. 

    • Tip #4. Do state any additional penalties you can seek in court based on the laws. If a specific law gives you the right to recover additional penalties, state that in your letter. For example, for security deposit cases, we often see state laws that allow tenants to recover more than just their security deposit from a landlord. 

    • Tip #5. Do not fabricate facts. If you end up going to court over the dispute, the judge will read your letter at the hearing. Any facts you claim in the demand letter may be brought up in court and will require further explanation.

    • Tip #6. Do include the important facts of the dispute. Consider the “who, what, where, and when” of your dispute. 

    • Tip #7. Don’t forget to include a response time. Besides actually making your demands, it is very important that you give the person or business the appropriate amount of time to respond to your demands. You may have to consult with your state laws as there may be a required amount of time.  

    Sample Demand Letters 

    We have a wealth of articles on demand letters by specific topics, locations, and recipients. These articles cover everything from crafting a demand letter for a property damage case to drafting a letter to demand payment of a debt.

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.

    Demand Letters by Topic 

    Demand Letters to Specific Types of Parties

    Demand Letters by State 

    Alternatives to Demand Letters 

    How to Send a Demand Letter 

    The most common way people send their demand letter is via email or mail. However, you can also send a demand letter: 

    1. By text message. This is a good option if you don’t have an address for the recipient of the demand letter. 

    2. By hand delivery. This may work better if it is a person and not a company. With this method, you are personally assuring the other person received the letter.

    3. By fax. This method is somewhat outdated, and most people and businesses would prefer you send emails instead. 

    How Long After a Demand Letter Does Settlement Take?

    It's hard to predict when you'll settle a dispute after you send a demand letter. Many factors can affect when you'll reach an agreement with the person or business you have a problem with. It might take a few weeks or months for them to agree to a settlement.

    Here are some of the factors that may affect how long it takes to reach a settlement: 

    1. Who the dispute is against. For example, if you are asking an airline or big company for a refund, it may take longer than sending a demand letter to an individual. 

    2. The length of your deadline. Sometimes, by law, you may be required to give more time to the other party, meaning you will have to wait longer for a possible settlement.

    3. The complexity of your claims and your case. For example, if your case involves a car accident with multiple parties and you send a demand letter to an insurance company, the insurance company may want to reach out to not only you but those other parties before making any settlement offers. 

    4. How reasonable the other party finds your demands. If you send a clear and concise demand letter with reasonable demands, the other party may be more likely to settle any claims quickly.

    5. Whether the other party thinks you’re bluffing. Some people may receive a demand letter and think it’s a bluff because they think filing a lawsuit is complicated. However, they don’t know People Clerk has your back with small claims lawsuits.

    What Happens if Someone Ignores a Demand Letter? 

    A person may choose to ignore demand letters for various reasons. For one thing, they may think you are bluffing and won’t take legal action against them. But it’s almost never in anyone’s best interest to ignore a demand letter as it is a formal communication that does lead to action in the future. 

    If someone does ignore your demand letter, you have the following options available: 

    1. Send a final demand letter

    2. File a complaint. Most states have consumer protection agencies and Attorney Generals that handle complaints against businesses for issues relating to refunds, breach of contract, etc. Additionally, you can file consumer complaints with nongovernment organizations like the Better Business Bureau

    3. Sue in small claims court. Small claims courts handle a wide variety of disputes involving small amounts of money, typically for up to $10,000. The courts are more efficient and less formal than other courts and are often designed for people to represent themselves without the need for an attorney. 

    Did you know we have a free tool powered by AI that helps you create a demand letter? Check out our demand letter tool.


    Claudia Diaz

    Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.

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