Demand letters are an integral part of the legal process. These letters are used as a first step, before litigation, to compel a person or business entity to honor an agreed-upon legal or contractual obligation. These documents establish a paper trail that justifies the validity of some debt or claim. In order to be most useful if the matter does go to court, however, proper response times are essential.
Performance of Duty
When demanding that a person perform an agreed-upon task, it is essential to provide a time line that is reasonable. For example, expecting a person to complete the sale of a house within 72 hours is not reasonable, because the title process alone can run at least a week. In the demand letter, set a reasonable amount of time for the duty to be accomplished. If time is not an immediate concern, grant a window of 30 days.
If a person owes money for goods or services rendered, providing a demand letter can escalate the collection process. In general, providing 10 business days for payment is reasonable. If a person is contractually obligated to pay interest or penalties, factor these into the amount requested.
Conveyence of Goods
If a person or company owes you some item, such as purchased goods, add that expectation into the letter that the item will be conveyed to you within 10 business days. Allow for the vendor to receive an extension if the delay is a result of external factors like damaged shipments. Providing a clause granting an extension to the demand in exchange for a reasonable and documented cause will help maintain the relationship and be viewed favorably if the matter is ever litigated.
Always send demand letters by certified mail with return receipt to ensure that it was received. Do not make unreasonable threats--a demand letter is a business letter, not a forum for venting. In all things, it is better to grant more time than not enough time, in case the matter must be brought to court .
Jason Gillikin is a copy editor and writer who specializes in health care, finance and consumer technology. His various degrees in the liberal arts have helped him craft narratives within corporate white papers, novellas and even encyclopedias.