Demand letters: always get proof of delivery!

You can prevent the expiration of a claim (or prescription) by sending a demand letter to the debtor. But if you fail to provide proof of delivery while the debtor denies ever having received that letter, your claim can be considered to be expired after all. Dutch contract lawyer Hidde Reitsma explains.



Expiration and interruption under Dutch law

A claim expires after the limitation period has passed (usually five years after the claim has come to exist). Because the effects of expiration are far-reaching, a limitation period can be interrupted by starting a debt collection procedure or, simply, by sending a demand letter. The intention of an act of interruption is to make the debtor aware that he should expect the creditor to exercise his right to claim at one point.

Demand letter in The Netherlands

The law requires, however, that in order to interrupt a limitation period, the claim must be reserved unambiguously in the demand letter. So no vague wording but a very clear statement that you are still entitled to amount X and that you reserve your rights to claim this amount.

Burden of proof delivery with sender

Interrupting a limitation period is overall easily done. Be aware though that the demand letter has to be received by the addressee in order to have effect. In Dutch law the burden of proof regarding the receipt of a letter lies with the sender. He has to provide evidence that the letter in question is actually delivered to the addressee. Therefore it is common use (and strongly advised!) to send important letters by registered mail with proof of delivery. Nowadays a fax receipt or proof of email is in general accepted in court as well.

Dutch lawyer for debt collection

Dutch law firm AMS is specialized in debt collection. Have you received a demand letter regarding a claim that is possibly lapsed? Or do you wish to preserve your own claims from expiring? Please feel free to contact one of our debt collection lawyers in The Netherlands for advice.

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