Lay Law Tips #1: Get it in Writing

Sometimes things don’t go your way, and you feel a bit stuck. Here is one of my top tips for keeping the law on your side, and using it to your advantage:

Get it in Writing.

So, you’ve been inconvenienced or shortchanged by a person or business, and you don’t know how to enforce your will despite the feeling you have a right to.
Ask the opposing party to state in writing with a signature or letterhead the reasons they refuse to comply with your request. If you’re not speaking to someone who can or will do this, then ask for someone who can.


1. The first result of your request may be that the other party simply backs down. They may feel insecure in their position and if they are in legal doubt, they will often opt to protect themselves from extra cost by giving in to your demand.

A true example: An employee came to copy hours worked onto a sign-in sheet and found that her hours from a previous shift had been amended by a superior, docking time worked. On confronting the superior, it was claimed that the reason was that this was a penalty for a late arrival.  Due to the casual nature of the work, the employer was not within their rights to withhold pay to enforce a penalty, but was obliged to pay for time worked. Upon request for a written statement of the reasons for withholding the pay, the employer paid the amount owed rather than face an enforcement action either by the employee or a public regulatory body.

A common circumstance for use: On moving in or out of rented property landlords or agents often attempt to charge fees for various services, or claims of damage. If you wish to dispute one of these claims, this is a perfect time to request reasoning in writing.

2. Alternately, your request may be refused. In this instance, you are immediately qualified to request help with your complaint from a public institution or regulatory body.

For Example: Trades are usually licensed by a guild or membership body. Search the web for a guild or union to which the tradesperson may belong, and email a request for their dispute resolution procedure to be initiated. Financial Services in most countries are regulated by a government agency, as if often the press, and of course government agencies themselves report to the appropriate ministry.

3. Finally, you may be given a statement in writing, leading you to one of two final options:

See above and use the statement in dispute resolution proceedings through an ombudsman, guild, union or other regulator OR if the reasoning is clear, you may feel satisfied or in the wrong yourself, and be ready to let the matter rest.

SO, in future, make sure you get all your disputes in writing.

Remember, writing can include email, text message, live chat, or any form of written communication.

Tweet us your #getitinwriting moments, @S_lessDiplomat



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