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Cease and desist letters are an effective way of stopping someone's inappropriate behaviour. These letters can be used by companies to protect their rights or by someone who is being subjected to harassment, and offer them help during a difficult time. The order is legally binding and can inform the harasser of the consequences of continuing their behaviour.
This guide will take you through exactly how this notice works and how to write one.
What is a cease and desist (harassment) notice?
A cease and desist harassment notice is used when a person or business is doing something that infringes on you or your business' rights. This harassment can be violent or non-physical, for example, when a company experiences copyright or trademark infringement.
A cease and desist notice for harassment is usually the first step to take when you are being harassed or your rights are being infringed upon.
Download this template at Lawpath
When might I use a cease and desist (harassment) letter?
There are a number of circumstances which might call for a cease and desist letter. These include:
- Libel or slander. You can also use a cease and desist letter to demand that someone stops making false and damaging statements about you.
- Trademark or copyright infringements. If your business' intellectual property is being used, then it might be possible to put a stop to it with a cease and desist letter.
- Harassment from debt collectors. Debt collectors are able to contact you, but there are restrictions as to how often they can contact you and how they can engage with you. If they step over the line you may use a cease and desist letter to stop their behaviour.
- Harassment from someone you know. This can be in a number of cases, including harassment by an ex-spouse or landlord. Or if you're being stalked. After engaging with the police in these serious circumstances, you may use a cease and desist letter to attempt to stop their behaviour.
What does a cease and desist (harassment) notice include?
When writing a cease and desist letter, make sure you use strong and definitive terms. You'll need to include the following information in your letter:
- Recipient. The individual or business who needs to stop the harassment must be listed.
- Sender. The individual or business requesting that the recipient stop their behaviour.
- The behaviour. List in detail the behaviour that needs to be ceased, including evidence and examples. You must then describe why it's unlawful and harmful.
- Consequences. Detail what will happen if the notice isn't followed, for example, a lawsuit.
- Date. The date when the letter is sent to the recipient.
Cease and desist vs order for harassment
A cease and desist letter is sent by an individual or business or their lawyer while an order of harassment is issued by a court of law or government agency. An order is legally binding, and if ignored the person can be found in contempt of court.
A cease and desist letter is often the first step when facing harassment and doesn't require a court case. An order for harassment, sometimes known as a restraining order, will have to be filed through court.
How effective is a cease and desist (harassment)?
While a cease and desist letter isn't legally enforceable, it may succeed in stopping your harasser before legal action is necessary. Sending this notice may help save you time, money and stress. Cease and desist letters are also a good way to collect hard evidence and prove you have asked someone to stop formally, which may aid you in court later.
Do I need to use a lawyer?
A lawyer isn't necessarily required to write a cease and desist for harassment letter. However, if you are inexperienced in writing these types of legal documents, you may want to show a draft of your letter to an attorney who specialises in this field before sending it out. You can also use a free online template to make sure you have the necessary information.
Get access to customisable cease and desist (harassment) templates online
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How do I write a cease and desist (harassment) notice?
It is important to be clear about what you want the person to stop doing, and why it is illegal for them to keep acting this way. You should also include a warning that you will pursue legal action if they carry on with this action, for example, filing a lawsuit.
To preserve your rights, state that you are not waiving any present or future rights to sue.
Where to get free legal documents and templates such as a cease and desist letter
Here is a selection of websites that allow you to view or download a cease and desist (harassment) letter template for free.
- Lawpath. You can sign up to this online legal resource site and download legal documents that you need, including cease and desist letter templates.
- LawDepot. LawDepot supplies a wide range of free online documents to choose from. You can fill them in online before downloading the documents.
- Wonder.Legal. Wonder Legal allows customers to purchase legal documents for a one time fee, although they do have some completely free templates.
Frequently asked questions
How do you define harassment?
Harassment can be online or in-person and covers stalking, unwanted correspondence as well as repeated unwanted phone calls or text messages.
Online harassment can range from a sustained attack on your personal or business material to cyberstalking and trolling.
How do I serve a cease and desist letter?
A cease and desist letter can be sent physically by mail or over email. You can also send both an email and physical letter. Always keep your own copy, no matter how you serve it.
How will someone respond to a cease and desist letter?
Some of the ways to respond to a cease and desist letter include:
- Ceasing the behaviour outlined in the letter
- Replying to the letter with the harasser's own version of events
- Ignoring the letter, after which you may consider further legal action.
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