What is a formal notice?
A formal notice is a letter ordering its recipient to comply with an obligation or to correct a situation alleged against the recipient, in accordance with certain terms and conditions and within a certain time period.
For example, the issue may concern finding a solution to a problem, paying an amount of money or complying with a contractual undertaking.
A formal notice is a formal and precise explanation to the person notified, of the allegations against that person. It sets out the measures that person must take to remedy the situation in order to avoid judicial proceedings. A formal notice is used to assert one's rights or to settle a dispute.
In some cases, the formal notice is a prerequisite to legal proceedings, and the absence of a formal notice may result in the loss of a case.
Sending a formal notice does not oblige you to institute legal proceedings against the person notified. If that person does not respond or refuses to comply with the notice, you can choose to institute proceedings or not. In general, the notice will cause the other party to react and could lead to an amicable settlement.
Drafting a formal notice
You can draft the letter of formal notice yourself or retain the services of a lawyer.
The law does not indicate the elements to be included in the notice, but it requires the notice to be made in writing. You must also grant the person notified enough time to respond to your demand, taking into account the nature and circumstances of the demand. If you do not allow for any time period, or if the time allowed is too short, the person notified will nonetheless be entitled to a reasonable time period to respond.
A formal notice must be drafted as a letter and its header must contain:
- the place and date on which the notice is sent;
- the name and address of the person notified;
- the notation "without prejudice" in order to protect yourself against any statement included in the letter;
- the notation "formal notice" in the subject line of the letter in order to inform the recipient of the content of the letter;
- the means used to send the letter ("by bailiff", "by registered mail", etc.).
The body of the letter must present the contextual setting of the most important facts:
- a summary of the problem;
- the claim, namely, the desired solution to the problem;
- the time period for settling the problem (10 days is considered a reasonable time period);
- the consequences if you do not obtain satisfaction, generally, legal proceedings, without any other notice or time allowed.
Do not forget to add your contact information and signature at the bottom of the page.
In general, the text of a letter of formal notice should not be longer than a page and a half.
Sending a letter of formal notice
There are several ways of sending a letter of formal notice. Always make sure that you keep a copy of the formal notice and proof that it was received by the person notified.
You can send the original:
- by bailiff;
- by registered mail;
- by email, with an acknowledgement of receipt or proof that it was actually received;
- by hand. Demand a signature (to be used as an acknowledgement of receipt), or give the letter to the person notified in the presence of a witness.
If several persons have solidarily undertaken to fulfil an obligation, a formal notice sent to one of those persons is also valid against all the other persons.
There is no time limit for sending a formal notice, but the law provides for a maximum period of time within which a person can be sued, which is commonly known as the "prescriptive period".
The letter of formal notice notifies someone that something is alleged against him or her. It is usually the last warning before legal proceedings are undertaken.