Sometimes writing a clear and concise letter to a person who legally owes you something can resolve the issue. Writing a demand letter is often quicker and less daunting than starting a lawsuit. Below are tips to help you write a demand letter.
Need to know
- A demand letter is a formal way to ask someone else to fulfill their legal obligations to you.
- Demand letters can resolve disputes without going to court.
- You can write a demand letter for many situations, including for issues with your employer, a retailer, or debtor.
- A demand letter should include only the facts, not emotions or opinions.
Know your options
You have options to resolve the issue. In addition to writing a letter, you might have a conversation or start legal action. The option you choose will depend on the nature of the issue and how successful you think a particular step will be. You can go through these options in any order. You can start with whatever step best fits you.
Know the time limits to sue
The law in Alberta says you have two years to start most types of legal actions. This means you cannot start a lawsuit more than two years after you discover the claim. For example, a creditor may not be able to bring a legal action to collect money if the debtor has not made a payment or acknowledged they owe the debt in more than two years.
Specific laws may have shorter timelines. For example, you must start a human rights complaint with a Human Rights Commission within one year of experiencing discrimination.
If in doubt, check with a lawyer. Refer to the Helpful agencies section at the bottom for where to find a lawyer.
How to write a demand letter
Step 1: Find out the process
Find out if there is a process to follow. For example, if you are raising concerns at work, find out if your workplace has a process, such as a specific person to contact or a form to complete. If you are raising concerns about a contract, review the contract to see if it says anything about how the contract parties will resolve disputes.
Step 2: Gather your thoughts and documents
Before you write you letter, pull your thoughts together as well as any paperwork supporting your position.
Make notes of your concerns and what you want to achieve. Note any specific incidents, including the date, place, and how it made you feel. Note any conversations you had with others, such as a manager, but do not mention conversations with your lawyer or doctor.
Think about the outcome you want. How do you hope the other party responds? To help with this, put yourself in their shoes. Think about what you would do if you were them. Give reasonable suggestions for the other party to think about. By doing so, you are more likely to get at least part of the solution you are after.
Gather anything that supports your position, such as:
- letters or emails that relate to the issue
- the contract or loan agreement (if you have one)
- the specific laws that apply to your situation (CPLEA.ca has information about the law in plain language that you may consider attaching to the letter)
Step 3: Write the letter
Some tips for writing your letter:
- Calmly and respectfully explain what the issue is.
- Describe the steps you have taken so far.
- Suggest a solution.
- Ask for a response by a certain date.
- Remember to focus on the facts and the legal issues.
- Do not express opinions or make mean statements.
You can use the template below to help you get started.
Sign and date the letter. Include copies of any supporting evidence with your letter. Keep a copy for yourself.
Template for a demand letter
Below is a template for a demand letter. To use it, copy the text into a typable document and insert your words in place of the prompt words in the square brackets.
[Other party’s name]
[Other party’s address]
Dear [Other party],
Re: [Contract or loan in dispute]
I am writing about [describe the contract or loan in dispute].
Our agreement was [describe the agreement in more detail and the current situation].
With this letter, I am demanding that [explain what you are asking the person to do – for example, “you pay the amount owing by X date”].
If you fail to act by that date, I will take legal action without further notice. In the legal action, I will seek to recover interest, filing fees, and any other costs.
I look forward to your reply and to resolving the problem. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the above address or by telephone at [your phone number].
Step 4: Have someone else review the letter
It is a good idea to have someone else read the letter. They can check for spelling or grammar mistakes. They can also let you know if the letter makes sense. If they do not understand what the issue is and how you propose to resolve it, the person receiving it likely won’t either.
Step 5: Send the letter
Delivering the letter in person may not be safe or may lead to more conflict. A safe and effective way to send a demand letter is by registered mail. Another option is email. However you send the letter, make sure you can confirm the person received it.
Who can help
Learn more from CPLEA about your legal rights!
Free legal clinics
Looking for free legal help in Alberta? Check out community legal clinics and student legal clinics. Eligibility criteria may apply. Contact them now!
Civil Claims Duty Counsel
Volunteer lawyers give 30 minutes of free legal advice at the Edmonton and Calgary courthouses.
Alberta Legal Coaches & Limited Services
Lawyers who provide coaching and limited services, for a fee.
Law Society of Alberta Lawyer Directory
This is a database that allows people to find a lawyer using a certain search criteria. Individuals can find a lawyer by searching by name, location, practice areas, language(s) spoken, gender, and whether a lawyer offers a limited scope retainers.
ADR Institute of Alberta
Find a mediator or arbitrator to help resolve disputes without going to court.