Before pursuing someone through the Small Claims court, you need to demonstrate that you have exhausted all other options for getting your money back. This includes sending a last request for payment, often referred to as a letter before action. You can produce this yourself, or you can hire a professional to write it. The contents should be the same regardless of who writes it.
Include your full name, address and contact details on the letter. This gives the recipient a way to contact you to arrange a solution. Put this contact information in the top right corner of the letter.
Address the letter to the person you dealt with directly. Use a full name if possible, and the registered address. If you do not know this, look online to see if you can find contact information. Most states have a business registration office which will be able to provide contact details for registered companies (See resources) or contact the Better Business Bureau.
Attach copies of any previous letters or communications you have sent. This could include printed e-mails. Clearly show the date on all communication if possible.
Acknowledge the attached documents in the letter. This usually reads, "I enclose copies of all communication sent to you between (date) and (date). I have given you reasonable opportunity to respond to this communication, and resolve my complaint. You have failed to do this."
Outline your plans. "You have left me with no alternative than to seek legal redress through the small claims court."
Provide a time limit. This cannot be less then 14 days. Keep the message simple and direct: "Unless this matter is resolved to my satisfaction within 14 days from the date of this letter, I will begin legal proceedings without further notice. The cost of these proceedings will be added to my claim."
Send the letter through a tracked postal service, such as USPS Signature Certification or Royal Mail Recorded Signed For, so you can prove receipt. Ensure the service you choose records the address delivered to, the signature obtained and the date/time of delivery, in case you need these details to provide to court.
Retain a copy of the letter, with attachments, and the proof of delivery to provide to the court if necessary.
Tips and warnings
- Retain a copy of the letter, with attachments, and the proof of delivery to provide to the court if necessary.