Writing a demand letter is not all that difficult. All you have to do is organize your ideas and your arguments… and read some of the tips in this article.
A demand letter is also sometimes called a “lawyer’s letter” or “formal notice” or, in French, a “mise en demeure.” It means you’re making a formal demand for something.
Be careful! Before you sit down to write your demand letter, remember that you have a duty to consider ways to settle your dispute other than going to court, such as negotiation and mediation.
That said, you and the other person have a duty to consider other ways to solve your problem after you send your demand letter.
Who Can Write a Demand Letter?
You can write one yourself. However, if the dispute you’re involved in is particularly complex or if the amount of money at stake is high, it might be better to ask a lawyer to do it for you.
Be honest, polite and as specific as possible when you write a demand letter. Why? Because everything you write in the letter can be used against you in court. It’s not the time to threaten someone or make up stories!
What Should a Demand Letter Say?
The law does not say specifically everything that should be in a demand letter. But the law does say that this kind of demand must be in writing and that verbal notice is not enough.
The law also says that you have to give the other person time to respond to your demand. If you don’t give time, or not enough time, the person will still be entitled to a reasonable amount of time to respond to your demand.
Although the law does not say more about what to include, it’s best to include the following information in your demand letter:
Top of the Page
- the date and the address from where the letter is being sent
- the name and address of the person you are sending the letter to
- mention that it is a “default notice”
- how the letter is being sent (“By Bailiff”, “By Registered Mail”, etc.)
- the words “WITHOUT PREJUDICE”. If there is a court case eventually, these words can allow you to, among other things, add information or give more details about certain information you didn’t think of including in the letter.
Body of the Letter
A description of the most important facts
- There’s no point giving a lot of details. A demand letter should generally not be more than a page and a half.
- If you don’t remember the specific dates of the events, you can write “on or around” before the date. For example: “I met with you on or around June 15, 2011.”
What you’re asking the other person for and why you think you have the right to ask for it
- E.g., “I am putting you on notice to pay me for the cost of repairing my living room window, which your child broke while playing soccer.”
How the other person can respond to your demand
- E.g., “You can hire someone to repair the window or pay me $250.”
How much time you’re giving the other person to respond to your demand
- This period must be “reasonable”. This means that it must be realistic and long enough for the person to respond to your demand under the circumstances.
- E.g., “You have 10 business days to repair the window or pay me $250 in cash or by certified cheque made payable to me.”
- “Business days” normally means the days of the week that are not Sundays or holidays.
- Note that you are not required to say that the time is calculated in business days.
Depending on the situation, your suggestions for resolving the dispute in way other than by going to court
- E.g., In order to avoid going to court, I suggest we attend a mediation session on (insert the date).
What you plan to do if the other person doesn’t respond to your demand within the time you mentioned
- E.g., “If you do not resolve the situation by (X) date, I will hire someone to do the repairs at your expense and will sue you for reimbursement of the costs”.
Bottom of the Page
- your contact information and signature
- if applicable, the name of the other people you’re sending a copy of the letter to (for example, “cc: Ms. XYZ”)
- if applicable, a list of the documents you’re sending with the demand letter, as “attachments” (by writing, for example, “Att. Copy of the XYZ contract”)
Other General Recommendations
- Be polite.
- Write only facts, not assumptions.
- Make reasonable and justified demands.
- Don’t ask for more than what you’re really owed.
- Be careful not to make illegal threats, such as threatening to report a tenant to the immigration department.
- Say, if it’s the case, that you’re open to negotiating after sending the demand letter.
When Should a Demand Letter Be Sent?
If you’re sending someone a demand letter, it’s because you want to settle the dispute and you are seriously considering taking him to court. agree to give him one last chance, or because you’re required by law to send one. You must therefore send your letter before trying to settle the problem without the other person or before suing that person.
Don’t forget that the law has deadlines for taking someone to court. These deadlines are called “prescription.“ So if you’re getting close to the deadline, make sure to send the demand letter as soon as possible so you’ll have enough time to go to court.
Important! Sending a demand letter does not stop prescription from running.
However, if there is a possibility of settling the dispute without going to court (for example, by negotiation or mediation), you can make an agreement in writing with that person to suspend the prescription. The maximum amount of time you can suspend prescription is six months.
How Should a Demand Letter Be Sent?
You can choose any method to send your letter, but make sure you can prove that the other person received it. Here are a few options:
- by bailiff
- by registered mail
- by email if you can get proof that it was received
- delivering it by hand to the person you’re putting in default. Ask that person to sign to confirm he received it or give it to the person with a witness present
However, this method is not ideal because the person might refuse to sign and proof by witness is more difficult to make.
In any case, make sure you keep a copy of the demand letter and proof that it was received!
Models of Demand Letters
The Quebec government provides an example of a demand letter.