The process of making claims to an individual or any organization can be tedious, especially in a situation where the parties involved are not cooperative. To make the process of making claims for a breach of contract or agreement easier for a claimant, he or she can write a letter of demand to the other party. Usually, in South Africa, a letter of demand is the last legal step to take before taking the case to a court.
Individuals, organizations, or companies that have a claim against another individual or company can write a letter of demand, requesting for their claims or demand to be met. Because a letter of demand is a legal document, it is important to follow due procedure when writing. In this article, we have included the basic things you need to know about how to write a letter of demand with templates and how to respond to it.
What Is A Letter Of Demand?
A letter of demand is mostly a formal letter written by a lawyer that indicates legal claims, mostly of payment. It is a letter that makes a claim for the recipient to fulfill his or her own part of a legal contract or agreement. A letter of demand can be written for a variety of reasons, which could include a breach of contract or legal wrongdoing, but most times, it is written to make claims for payment. It is usually the first and a very important step in the litigation process. However, it is not in every situation that you need a letter of demand.
When writing a letter of demand, it is paramount that you clearly state the exact date and time the defaulting party has to do what is obliged of him or her, you are also expected to clearly state what is expected of the defaulting party.
When To Write A Letter Of Demand
Whether or not you should write a letter of demand will depend on the agreement between you and a defaulting party. Here are some of the reasons or circumstances that call for delivering a letter of demand;
- To place a debtor in mora: In a situation where a party to a contract who is supposed to pay a debt has refused to make payment, writing and sending a letter of demand for payment will be in place.
- To complete the legal cause of action: This reason is backed up by section 3(1)(a) of the Institution of Legal Proceedings against certain Organs of State Act 40 of 2002. For example, a written notice of intended legal proceedings to the relevant organ of the state.
- You can write a letter of demand for defamation.
- For breach of contract.
You can also speak to your lawyer about a situation you are facing to know whether or not it requires writing a letter of demand.
Types of Letter Of Demand
As mentioned earlier, a letter of demand is a legal document that seeks to make reclaims and can be written for several reasons. The several reasons for writing a letter of demand means there are different types of letter of demand. It could be written to seek completion of an outstanding payment or debt, address defamation, seek payment on rentals, or for personal damages, like injuries, in a car accident. Whatever be the case, here are some types of letters of demand in South Africa:
1. Letter of Demand For Rental
A letter of rental demand is served to a tenant when he or she fails to pay rent for something hired. It usually serves as a reminder to the tenant. This type of letter of demand usually contains the amount owed by the tenant and the due date for payment, it also contains the consequences the tenant will invite on his or herself if he or she fails to make payment on the due day.
2. Letter of Demand For Payment
A letter of demand for payment is served by a creditor to a debtor to remind the debtor of the amount owed. It contains valid details about the payment contract that has been breached and information about the date the debtor is expected to pay back the money. This letter also contains the possible consequence the debtor will face if he fails to pay his debt. Usually, if the debtor ignores the letter of demand for payment, the next step is a full-blown court case.
3. Letter Of Demand For Small Claims Court
A letter of demand for a small claims court is a letter of demand used to claim properties or amounts not more than R20,000. It can be used to claim damages, money owed, false payments, rents, and properties. In South Africa, all local languages can be used in a small claims court and you do not need a lawyer to represent yourself.
4. Letter Of Demand For Defamation
A letter of defamation is a letter served to a defendant by a claimant to demand an apology or an open negotiation. This letter is served to save both the claimant and defendant the stress and money required to go to court. A letter of demand for defamation usually contains an introduction, facts about the event, liability that is the harm caused by the defamation and then damages and settlement considerations, monetary demands, and then a conclusion.
5. Car Accident Letter Of Demand
This type of letter of demand is used to claim personal damages for a car accident. This type of letter usually contains details about the accident. This letter should contain the exact value of money required for medical bills if there were any injuries or for replacement or repair of properties if there was the loss of any.
How To Write A Letter Of Demand
In South Africa, a letter of demand is usually a formal letter, especially when it is drafted by a lawyer. Also to be sure that your circumstances require a letter of demand, you should speak to a lawyer. What your letter of demand contains will depend on the reason you are writing it. In general, a letter of demand should contain the following:
- Consequences of failing to adhere to the demand of the letter.
- The cost implication of the letter of demand and the cost implication of not adhering to the letter of demand.
- Clearly state the fact upon which the claims are made.
- Provide all relevant particulars, especially particulars whose absence can raise uncertainties that will be used by the recipient against the claimant.
- Clearly state what is expected of the recipient.
When writing a letter of demand, it is important that all information you include are correct and valid. They should be in line with the terms and contract of the original contract that the recipient did not oblige to.
It is important to ensure that every piece of information you provide is accurate because if for any reason it results in a court case, the information on the letter of demand may be used against you if it contains a piece of information that is false or a piece of information that does not agree with the original contract.
How to Write a Letter of Demand For Payment
- Information about the claimant and recipient.
- The exact date when the debt was incurred.
- In a situation where there is a dispute, the exact date when there was an improper charging should be included.
- Details of the debt owed: This includes the amount owed, the nature of the agreement that has been breached, and how the agreement was not obliged.
- Include records of any previous attempts that have been made by the claimant to collect the debt from the recipient, this may include calls, emails, text messages, and invoices.
- Details on the payment expectation should be clearly stated. This should include the exact date the payment is expected.
- The consequences of not adhering to the letter of demand should also be clearly stated, especially if the claimant intends to sue the recipient when the letter is not adhered to.
- The personal information of the claimant should be included.
How Do I Respond To A Letter Of Demand?
Responding to a letter of demand wrongly may come with some consequences, such as a legal suit, as such, it is important that the recipient of a letter of demand responds rightfully. In a situation where you have received a letter of demand but you are not clear about some of the information on the letter, what you should do is call the claimant and request an explanation. With his or her explanation, you can now know the right move to make.
If for any reason, you do not agree with the claims on the letter of demand that you have received, then you should seek the advice of your lawyer who would advise you on the right action to take on starting your claims. In a situation where you agree with the information, then it is right that you fulfill your part of the bargain. To be on the safe side, it is wise to seek the advice of a lawyer.
Is It Wise To Ignore A Letter Of Demand?
In plain terms, no. It is not wise to ignore a letter of demand. This is because in most cases a letter of demand is usually the last step to take before filing an official court case. You should keep in mind that most actions you take will be used against you if eventually a court case is filed. With this in mind, ignoring a letter of demand is not a wise thing to do, rather work with your lawyer to know the best action to take.
Here Are Templates For Various Letters Of Demand
Template 1 – Letter of Demand for Payment[Your name] [Address] [date] [Debtor’s name] [Title] [Address]
Dear [debtor’s name],
Letter Of Demand For Completion Of Payment
I demand from you immediate payment of the sum of RXX XXX, being in respect of _____________________________________ for [service or goods rendered], but which you have to date failed, neglected or refused to pay.
In terms of the National Credit Act N0 34 of 2005, I am obliged to advise you, as per the requirements of section 129(1) of the said Act, that you may approach for guidance a debt counselor, alternative dispute resolution agent, consumer court or ombud with jurisdiction, with the intent that the parties resolve any dispute under the agreement or develop and agree on a plan to bring the payments under the agreement up to date.
If you do not avail yourself of one of these options and fail to pay RX XXX at my offices within ten (10) days of the date hereof, the summons will be issued against you for recovery thereof without further notice.
Yours faithfully,[Your signature] [Your name]
Template 2 – Letter of Demand for Defamation[Your name] [Address] [date] [Defendant’s name] [Title] [Address]
Dear [defendant’s name],
I am writing in reference to your blog post of [refer to the date of publication] where you defamed me by claiming that I was fired from my former workplace [name of company] for selling the company’s properties. That was never the case. I left my previous job because I got a better offer at [recent employer]. However, as a result of his blog post, I have lost my employment at [recent employer].
It’s been 3 months since I lost my job and everywhere I try to apply for a new job, they refer to the lies you [defendant’s name] spread about me and now I have become unemployable. This has seriously affected my mental health [ensure you have receipts from a recognized hospital to back up this claim].
I, therefore, hold you liable for defamation as your blog is widely read especially among those from my line of work. You, [defendant’s name] know that if I bring a suit against you and your blog, I would win the case without hassles. This is especially so because my former boss has told you that I never stole from the company and is willing to testify to that effect [give other reasons you think you have a strong case against him]
So far, I have spent [amount] on my fruitless job search. My medical and counseling bills are to the tune of [amount] (I have my receipts). I was in pain and underwent a lot of emotional suffering. I suffered insomnia and a loss of appetite as I couldn’t sleep or eat. And so I lost a lot of weight. The embarrassment I have faced on the streets has been unfathomable.
With respect to lost earnings, the loss of my job at [recent employer] means I have lost [three months salary total] as a result of your actions. My good name was also rubbished by your publication and it will take me at least two years to restore my name. I am therefore demanding the sum of [amount you are claiming for damages] to settle this case. If I do not hear from you in 14 days, I will contact my lawyer and we will approach a court to hear our prayer in a lawsuit. [It is important to ensure that you document your lost earnings claim by providing documents that prove your earnings.]
Yours Sincerely,[Your signature] [Your name]