A hardship letter written in a business letter format is a first step in asking a creditor for financial assistance, a temporary forbearance or alternative payment options. In some cases, the letter will expand on information you provide in a financial hardship application. In other cases, it will be the only way to explain your situation and ask for help. Regardless, the letter should paint a full picture of your financial situation and explain what type of assistance you're looking for without including unnecessary details. A creditor who understands your situation fully may be more likely to approve your request.
What to Include -- and Leave Out
In addition to reviewing best practice tips, it can be helpful to review a few sample letters and hardship letter templates before getting started. When you finish, send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt to the billing inquiries address listed on your billing statement. Keep a copy of this letter and any additional correspondence for your records.
Follow best practice guidelines in drafting your letter.
- Keep the letter to no longer than one page
- State the facts of your situation as clearly and as objectively as you can
- State that you are willing to resolve the debt
- Attach whatever documentation is necessary to support your claim
- Thank the creditor in advance for taking the time read your letter and consider your request
- Over dramatize or exaggerate your situation -- never make claims you can't prove or promises you can't keep
- Leave it up to your creditor to propose a solution
- Play a "blame game" or give the creditor an ultimatum, such as telling the creditor you're planning on filing bankruptcy if it can't help you
Writing the Letter
In the first paragraph, briefly state your request and summarize your reason for writing the letter. For example, Writing Help Central recommends that you start with a statement such as "The purpose of this letter is to request," and then state your request and the underlying reason.
In the body of the letter, devote one paragraph to providing whatever details are necessary make sure the creditor understands your situation, another to explaining your solution, and a third to restating your solution and describing why it will work. For example, if you're proposing an interest rate reduction, explain how the reduction will make it easier to keep your payments current, and also enable you to pay more than the monthly minimum.
In the closing paragraph, thank the creditor and include a request for action. For example, finish with a statement such as "I appreciate your time and consideration in this matter and look forward to hearing from you soon." Offer a telephone number where the creditor can reach you easily.
Finally, list the supporting documents you've included with the letter in an "Enclosure" notation after the closing.