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If you believe that your property has been wrongfully taken or withheld from you, writing a demand letter can be an effective way to request the return of your property. In this article, learn how to write a demand letter requesting the return of your property, see a sample demand letter, and learn about what you can do after sending a demand letter.
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Common Reasons to Send a Demand Letter to Return Property
Your ex took your dog, and you want them to return your dog.
You lent your car to someone, but they never returned it.
Your roommate moves out and takes furniture that belongs to you.
Your landlord illegally locks you out and doesn’t return your personal belongings to you.
If you are looking for a demand letter to send to someone for damaging your property, check out our article on demand letter for property damage instead.
Why is a Demand Letter to Return Property Important?
A simple and effective way to ask for your property is to send a well-crafted demand letter. The letter should state that you want your property returned within a specific deadline.
Here are at least five reasons why you should send a demand letter to return property before taking legal action:
Depending on the state you are filing a lawsuit in, you may be required to demand payment from the other party before filing. For example, in California, small claims court demanding payment is a requirement.
A demand letter can help you better organize your case. If you end up filing a lawsuit, you will need to make a concise claim and prove your case to a judge. Writing a demand letter will help you think through every aspect of your case, including the important facts, your legal arguments, and the evidence you'll need to prove your claim. With a demand letter, you will be prepared for litigation even before you file a lawsuit.
A demand letter signals to the person that took your property that you are serious about resolving the dispute and that you are willing to take action.
Sending a written demand letter assures you there is a record of your attempt to settle. So while demands can be made orally, we recommend making any demands in writing. Writing a letter can sometimes be very effective as it is a more formal way of demanding your property back.
The most important reason to send a demand letter is that it may lead to you receiving your property back without legal action.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney to Write a Demand Letter to Return Property
There is no formal requirement that states you need a lawyer to write your demand letter. You can do it on your own.
However, you may want to consider the following factors when deciding to hire a lawyer to write a demand letter:
Cost. One of the first things you should consider is the cost of hiring a lawyer to write a demand letter.
The complexity of your case. Property can be taken under different circumstances. For example, through fraud or misrepresentation. If your case is more complex than just a roommate taking your PS4, it may be worth reaching out to a lawyer to help you understand what claims you may have.
What to Include in Your Demand Letter
Below are suggestions on important elements to include in your letter:
Make sure to include background facts describing the property and how it was taken. Identify the property you are seeking to have returned and provide any relevant details, such as the date the property was taken or withheld.
Only make claims that are legally correct. For example, don’t write you can press criminal charges for theft unless you are sure under your state laws that the other person’s actions actually amount to theft. If you have any doubts about legal claims you wish to make in your demand letter, consider reaching out to an attorney.
Explain your ownership rights to the property. If you have a legal right to the property, explain the basis of your claim. This may include providing proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale, receipt, or registration document.
State how the property can be returned. For example, can the other person simply bring the property to the mailing address you provide, or should they drop it off at a drop-off point?
Include a deadline and intent to sue language. You may want to consider giving the other person 14 days to respond to you and state that if they do not respond within that time, you intend to sue them.
Once you have sent your demand letter, keep it in your records. In the event you do end up filing a small claims lawsuit, you can bring it to the hearing and show it to the judge. This is especially handy if the other person claims they didn’t know you wanted your property back.
Sample Demand Letter to Return Property
Below is a sample demand letter. This sample demand letter is for the return of a vehicle but can be used for other types of property. When using this sample, make sure to include facts that relate directly to your situation.
How to Send a Demand Letter to Return Property
In general, you may send your demand letter via email or mail. However, you can also hand deliver the letter if you wish. For letters that you mail, consider sending your letter with tracking information so that you know when it has been delivered.
What to Do After Sending a Demand Letter to Return Property
Besides sending a demand letter to return property, consider trying to get your personal belongings back legally using some of the following methods:
File a police report for theft. The police can investigate the theft and help you get your personal belongings back. Keep in mind that they may not consider the situation to be theft.
Request a civil standby. Most police departments allow people to request that a police officer accompany them when they attempt to get their property back.
File an insurance claim. If you have an insurance policy that covers theft, you may be able to file an insurance claim if someone has your stuff and won’t give it back.
Sue the person who took your stuff in small claims court. Generally, you are able to sue someone to get your property back in small claims court. Please note, not all small claims courts have the power to make someone do something. Instead, you may have to sue for the value of your property.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.