December 29, 2015 | Kristina Dolgin
We have all felt the sentiment in Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.” Did someone borrow money from you and refused to pay it back? Did you do a job for someone and they never paid you? Did someone take or destroy something of yours and never replaced it or gave you money for it? In each of these instances you can use a demand letter to help get what is owed to you.
A demand letter is a formal letter to a person or business demanding that they perform a legal obligation owed to you. Usually people write them when they are owed money or when someone has failed to act on a contractual commitment.
Some courts require you to make a formal demand before heading into court, but even if its not required it is a good idea for two main reasons. First, your demand letter will show you’re serious and will likely scare your opponent into paying you without going to court. Secondly, if you do have to go to court, this letter will act as positive evidence that you tried to settle the matter on your own and will be an opportunity to lay the facts clearly before a judge.
An attorney can write a demand letter on your behalf, but you can totally write one on your own, saving you time and money. You don’t have to be legal savvy in order to write one. Just follow these steps and review sample letters and you’ll be on your way to making them pay.
Letters should be typed, not handwritten. If you don’t have access to a home computer, use one at a public library. Public libraries usually have computers that you can use for free or a small fee.
Consider tone and be polite. Consider the relationship you have with the person who owes you money. Will you have a personal or business relationship with this person in the future? Even if the person you are writing to deserves a scathing telling off maintain politeness in your letter and just stick to the facts.
Keep copies. Make and keep a copy of each letter you send. Keep all correspondences from your adversaries too.
Document their receipt. It is best if you send the demand letter via certified mail with a return receipt requested. If you do end up in court, you can use the return receipt to combat any claim that your adversary didn’t receive the demand letter. If you don’t know the other party’s mailing address or can’t afford to send your letter via certified mail and have been communicating via email, email the letter to your adversary with the subject line RE: DEMAND FOR PAYMENT and print the post dated email after you’ve sent it.
In general a demand letter includes four parts:
- The payment or action that you’re demanding. Be clear and concise.
- Why you’re demanding payment or action. It may seem strange to spell this out to your adversary, given they know the story, but if you end up in court a judge will need to understand what is going on. This is a chance to make a record not only of the initial problem, but also of any subsequent in person/phone conversations, unanswered calls/texts/emails, or inappropriate conduct by the other person.
- The consequences for non-payment. A demand letter is threatening by nature so there is no need for additional hostility. State that you will promptly pursue your legal remedies if your demand is not met.
- A time limit to comply with your demand letter. Give solid dates and outline exactly how they should respond. One to two weeks is a reasonable amount of time to expect a response. 30 days is a reasonable amount of time to expect payment (or first installment, depending on circumstances.)
NOTE: Only legal contracts are legally binding! Given that prostitution is illegal in the US, you cannot write a demand letter to a client or take them to court for failure to pay.
Here is a sample demand letter. If you use this letter as a template be sure to insert your personalized information into the caps locked sections. This letter was written specifically for use by a porn studio who had not been paid by a clip hosting site.
Sample Demand Letter:
[DATE LETTER SENT]
[THEIR NAME/BUSINESS NAME
Re: Demand for Payment
To Whom It May Concern:
Please be advised that [NAME/BUSINESS NAME] has failed to pay my studio since [DATE.] Because of this failure to pay, I am owed the sum of [AMOUNT OWED TO YOU.] This letter is an informal demand to tender payment to me as per the agreed upon terms of our contractual relationship.
I have had a studio with [NAME OF CLIP HOSTING SITE] since [MONTH AND YEAR.] While [NAME OF CLIP HOSTING SITE] has successfully made payments as agreed in the past, [NAME OF CLIP HOSTING SITE] has now refused to make payments since [DATE.] I have made repeated attempts to collect the payment owed to me on [DATES PAYMENT REQUESTED.] I have not received any payments in whole or in part as of the date of this letter. I am requesting that you honor the terms of our contract and tender me the payment I am owed in full by [DATE ONE MONTH FROM NOW.]
I will expect a response to this letter no later than [DATE TWO WEEKS FROM NOW.] If this matter is not resolved by the time specified above, I reserve the right to commence legal proceedings to recover the debt without further notice to you. This letter serves as evidence that I have attempted to resolve this matter informally.
YOUR PHONE NUMBER]