Writing a Demand Letter: 5 Common Examples

Writing a Demand Letter: 5 Common Examples

If you are involved in a legal dispute, you are probably steaming mad — or at least frustrated. Maybe someone owes you money, didn't return your rent deposit, has damaged your property, or has something that belongs to you — and you want it back.

Your first inclination might be to rush to the courthouse to file a lawsuit. You believe you are in the right. They owe you.

The problem is that a lawsuit can be costly. And you probably can't afford to hire an attorney — which means you may need to represent yourself in court. And your opponent may hire an attorney, decreasing your chances of getting what you are after.

A simple solution to your problem could be writing a demand letter. If the demand letter you write is successful in resolving your dispute, you could avoid going to court, which would save you time, money, and a big headache.

The landlord who owes you money or the person who damaged your property may be willing to pay your demands. They may not even know you have a claim — and chances are they don't want you to take them to court. 

4 Common Examples for Writing a Demand Letter

 Here are five common types of demand letter samples that people might write before filing a lawsuit.

Example 1: Demand Letter for Payment

There are many reasons for writing a demand letter for payment. You might write a demand letter requesting payment in one of the following situations:

  • You're a small business owner, and a customer has not paid their bill despite you sending out invoices. Consider writing them a demand letter for payment before taking them to small claims court.
  • You're a freelancer or work in the gig economy, and you've submitted work — but the client is so slow-paying that you think they are trying to cheat you. Write them a persuasive demand letter for payment asking them to settle up before you take legal action.
  • You own a B2B and one of the companies you service has been ignoring your invoicing of materials or other services. Writing a demand letter could tell them that you are serious about getting paid — and help you both avoid the hassles of court.

Example 2: Demand Letter for Money Owed

  • You loaned a friend or family member money to buy a car (or whatever), and they aren't answering your phone calls. A carefully crafted demand letter for money owed can help save your relationship and resolve the issue of non-payment.
  • Your landlord wrongfully held back your security deposit. Writing a demand letter explaining why they need to refund your deposit may help you get your money back without taking them to court.

Example 3: Demand Letter for Damages to Property

  • Your tenant damaged your property in an amount over and beyond their security deposit. Writing a demand letter for damages can help you resolve the issue without going to court to seek a judgment (something no one wants).
  • The neighbor's dog damaged your prize rose-garden, costing you more than anyone could imagine. A properly constructed demand letter for damages to property will let them know how severe the damages are and provide them the opportunity to rectify without involving the court.

Example 4: Demand Letter for Return of Property

  • Your roommate moved out and accidentally packed up some of your belongings (and you have witnesses). You don't want to take them to court (or call the police), but they won't return your text messages. Write them a demand letter, and they will know that you are serious about getting your stuff back.
  • You had to move unexpectedly, and your previous roommate said you could leave your large screen, HD, 3D television in the apartment a few weeks. Now you want it back. Every time you agree to meet, they don't show up. Writing a demand letter can let them know you aren't playing games — but will take them to court if they don't return your property.

Example 5: Demand to Cease and Desist

  • You find out that your upstairs neighbor has been washing her windows with copious amounts of water and bleach, causing filthy bleach water to rain down on your balcony and damage its marble floors.
  • Write a demand letter letting them know that they need to stop this practice or find a way to clean their windows without ruining your balcony.

The above demand letter sample scenarios are legitimate reasons to take someone to court. By writing a demand letter, you may get the same result — but without the stress of a lawsuit.

Writing a demand letter can be a little tricky. There are things you should say — and things you should not — especially if you want to resolve the issue without going to court. 

Pre-Lawsuit Demand Letter: Tips and Strategies

 There are specific guidelines you ought to follow when writing a pre-lawsuit demand letter.

For example:

  • Your demand letter should look professional and be appropriately formatted so your opponent will take your demands seriously;
  • When writing a demand letter, you must skillfully weave the facts and convincingly present them — so you can get what you want;
  • The demand letter must include certain elements that will protect you from harming your case if your opponent refuses to comply and you end up at trial;
  • You must be careful not to include specific kinds of information in your demand letter that could harm you or your case;
  • The letter should take into account time urgencies, statutes of limitations, deadlines to respond, and many other considerations to make it as persuasive (and effective) as possible.

Unfortunately, many lousy sample demand letters are circulating the Internet. Be cautious of making a mistake that could destroy your chances of settling — or worse — damage your case or reputation (especially if your case goes to trial).

If you'd like to learn how to write a solid demand letter that will protect you and help you persuasively make your demand to those who owe you money or property, Legal Seagull has produced a mini-course on writing a demand letter.

In Writing a Pre-Lawsuit Demand Letter , attorneys Neer Lerner and Elliott Malone provide video instruction, a PDF guide, and a sample demand letter that you can use for inspiration and guidance in your pre-lawsuit demand letter.

Learn more about Writing a Pre-Lawsuit Demand Letter.

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