How to Write a Demand Letter for Payment

By Carrie Ferland

Writing a demand letter is the first step in the legal process to recover money you lent to someone else. While the demand letter itself has no actual legal authority, it is often a very effective way to elicit payment for an outstanding debt, particularly from laypeople. If successful, your demand letter will resolve the matter and save you the hassle of filing a claim in civil court. Demand letters are also easy to write yourself, so you do not need to hire an attorney to draft one for you.

Determine exactly what it is you are demanding. How much money are you asking for, and why? If it is related to an outstanding debt, then calculate the total amount of money owed, plus any interest or penalties, if applicable. If you are demanding payment for damages caused, determine how much money it will cost to repair the damage or calculate how much you have already paid. Use a scratch piece of paper to do your calculations, and be sure to show your work--you will need to show the recipient the total amount you are demanding and how you arrived at that amount.

Locate any supporting documents substantiating your claim. If the payment is related to a contractual agreement, for example, find a copy of the original signed contract. If you are demanding repayment on a personal loan, find proof of the loan - such as a canceled check or a written agreement - to prove you loaned the money. Bank statements, billing statements and financial instruments are necessary to substantiate the amount of money you are owed. Emails, text messages, voicemails and other correspondence can help you prove the exchange took place and the recipient was aware he or she had to pay the money back.

Type a draft of your demand letter outlining the amount of money you are demanding and why you are demanding it. Be descriptive, but concise; only include information relevant to the situation, and be honest in your depiction of the circumstances. Your demand letter will become a part of any future litigation, so it is imperative that you do not make threats and do not lie in the letter. Use a sample demand letter for payment if you need additional guidance.

Include your calculations underneath your demand. Draft a list of each individual item for which you are demanding payment, the total amount owed for each item and any additional interest or fees you are adding to the total amount. Point to your supporting documents you previously gathered to substantiate these amounts, as this will increase the likelihood that the recipient will repay you per the terms of your demand. Close your demand by politely stating you will file a lawsuit if the recipient does not respond.

Add your contact information to the bottom of the demand letter and invite the recipient to contact you to discuss the matter further. Provide your home telephone number, mailing address and email address to give the recipient multiple points of contact.

Review your demand letter and make any necessary revisions. You may want to enlist another individual who is familiar with the circumstances to review the letter for you, as well. Utilize your word processor's spelling and grammar tools to ensure your letter does not contain misspellings, which can decrease the professionalism and authority of your letter.

Print your completed demand letter for payment. Review the letter once more to ensure its accuracy, then sign the bottom. Make a copy of your supporting documents and attach these copies to the back of your letter.

Copy the signed letter and retain the copy for your personal records. Mail the original signed demand letter to the recipient using certified mail with signature delivery or a similar courier service. Retain the receipt as proof of mailing. If the recipient refuses delivery, retain the refusal slip; this will be helpful if you later decide to initiate litigation against him or her.

Follow up about two weeks after you mail your demand letter for payment. If you have not yet received a response, try mailing a copy of the original demand letter along with a new letter explaining that you would appreciate a response. You can also politely try contacting the recipient via telephone or email to elicit a response. If the recipient continues to ignore your demand letter after six to eight weeks, you may want to consider filing a complaint in civil court to initiate litigation.

About the Author

Carrie Ferland is a practicing civil litigation defense attorney in the Philadelphia Area. As an author, her work has been featured in various legal publications for over 10 years. Ferland is a 2000 graduate of Pennsylvania State University and completed her Juris Doctorate and Master of Business Administration with the Dickinson School of Law. She is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in English.

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