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Demand letters: when to send and how to act

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

It's a rewarding experience to run your own business, especially when business is good. But every success comes with its speed bumps, like an evasive client with an overdue invoice. What do you do? You’ve sent out reminders and your final notice for payment has been ignored. You might be eager to jump straight to legal action, but there's still one more step to take – sending a demand letter.

What is a demand letter?

A demand letter is a formal notice typically authored by a lawyer or paralegal. It urges the recipient to act in a way that achieves an outcome desired by the sender, and it's also a warning that legal action is impending unless the recipient acts as requested. This formal notice is typically incentive enough to inspire tardy clients to pay up when your reminders have been ineffective.

When do I need to send one?

Let’s say you own a flooring company and you’ve issued an invoice for a big, expensive job. Not only are you counting on this cash, but you’ve worked countless hours which could have been spent on other clients willing to pay. Plus, you have your subcontractors waiting for a paycheque, and no money from the client means no money for anyone. If you gave the client a certain amount of days to fulfill your invoice, it’s important to be patient. But don’t be afraid to send out reminders during this time via snail-mail or e-mail, or even by phone. If this time has elapsed and you’ve sent a final reminder that has gone unanswered, it’s time for a demand letter.

Why should I ask a lawyer or paralegal for help?

There are three reasons to consult a lawyer or paralegal about sending a demand letter for payment. First, the words of a legal professional may be more effective. You can send a demand letter on your own threatening legal action, but it may have less sway with the client than a document with a lawyer's letterhead. Secondly, a professional can also advise you on any defenses the client might use to block your claim for repayment, which could save you a lot of money down the road. Lastly, a legal professional can tell you if the case is worth pursuing in the first place. Court comes with its own fees, which may ultimately surpass the amount in unpaid invoices you’re seeking, and it may take years to reach a resolution. Consult with a lawyer or paralegal to approach the situation with tact and ensure the decision is made in your best interest.

What do I do if I’ve received a demand letter?

It’s easy to fall behind with finances. Regardless of your best intentions, bills can go unpaid. If you're on the receiving end of a demand letter, statement of claim, or plaintiff's claim, it's important to be proactive. Unfortunately these issues don't go away if you simply ignore them, and choosing to handle them yourself might allow for uninformed or emotional decisions that can do more harm than good. Seek the help of a lawyer or paralegal to determine the best course of action. A professional with your best interest in mind will try to settle and resolve the dispute to end it quickly. More importantly, a legal professional has years of training meant to help in these situations which is the kind of reassurance you need in these stressful situations.

Ask Jurble

Jurble helps to resolve your dispute without the complication of a law firm or the intimidating fees that many are used to. As an online firm, we pride ourselves on casual, office-free meetings and 30 minutes of free advice to help make the law more accessible. If you need help with a demand letter, simply send us a quick e-mail or book an appointment right from your smartphone to talk to a lawyer. Our automated scheduling system allows you to book the best time for you, and you can choose a phone consultation or a virtual meeting through FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. Resolve your dispute in a way that suits you, without the suits.

Click here to learn more about Jurble's other debt services, and learn how we can help start your business and maintain your minute books.

Jurble is owned by Ryan Michael Solcz of Ryan Michael Solcz Professional Corporation, a lawyer in good standing and authorized to practice law in the Province of Ontario, Canada.

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