A hardship letter is a request written to a creditor, lender, or similar institution that requests an alteration of payments or fees due to financial hardship. These letters are often used as a means of stopping or deferring foreclosure proceedings on houses, but may be employed in many other situations. Writing a hardship letter requires that the writer explain why he or she feels an adjustment might be warranted based on unfortunate financial circumstances.
When writing a hardship letter, it is important to remain to the point, honest, and polite. This is not a forum to rail against a creditor for confiscatory rates, threaten to sue, or list every unfairness that has ever occurred. Though nothing can guarantee a favorable outcome, creditors may be more willing to work out a solution with people who are honest about the situation and efficient in their request.
A basic hardship letter will be one or two pages long, and contain a simple description of the circumstance that have made a person unable to afford payments. There may be many valid reasons why payments have become impossible, including disability, a death in the family, medical emergencies, unemployment, divorce, overwhelming debt, or military service. Experts recommend that while letters should be kept short, it is important to make letters personal in nature. Explaining which circumstances led to a job loss, or how a sudden death of a spouse has led to serious income problems, may potentially have some affect on the actions of the creditor.
After listing circumstances, the next step in a hardship letter is to request a remedy. Remedies will depend on the situation, but might include refinancing options, a stay on interest rates, or lenience or reduction of delinquency fees. Creditors may want information on what level of payments a person can manage, and it might be important to include details about how the financial crisis is being managed to assure creditors that some effort is being made to pay debts. Some experts also suggest explaining whether the situation is temporary or permanent, but this is not always required.
Dates of all relevant financial issues should be included with the letter, to establish that payments were being made before the circumstances arose, and that the late or missed payments were directly connected to the adverse situation. In addition, it is important to include current contact information, and supporting documents such as bank statements, confirmation of divorce proceedings or unemployment, or tax returns that confirm the situation.
Writing a hardship letter may feel frustrating or even shameful, but it is an important part of debt resolution. Not only does writing a hardship letter show creditors that a person is trying to take responsible action for their debts, it may also serve as a record of due diligence in bankruptcy proceedings or civil suits against a debtor. There are many websites that provide templates and examples of hardship letters for different situations; while these can be an excellent guide for writing a letter, it may be more effective to use personal words and phrasing to capture the attention of the creditor.