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How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Iowa (2023 Guide)

Hannah Locklear | March 31, 2023

When you win your debt collection lawsuit in Iowa ^^

Summary: You have 20 days to respond to a debt lawsuit in Iowa. To respond, you must file a written Answer in which you address each claim against you and assert your affirmative defenses. SoloSuit can help you with each step of responding to a lawsuit and more.

You were having a good day and then it happened. A knock on the front door. An unfamiliar face. An envelope full of court documents. It takes a few moments, but it finally hits home—you are being sued.

You are likely panicking and losing sleep, but you don't need to. This article will provide you with important information to make responding to a debt lawsuit easier and less stressful. Keep reading to learn how to answer a Summons for debt collection in Iowa.

Respond to your Iowa debt lawsuit before the deadline

In Iowa, you have 20 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.303(1) states:

Unless otherwise provided, the defendant, respondent, or other party shall serve, and within a reasonable time thereafter file, a motion or answer within 20 days after the service of the original notice and petition upon such party.

This means that you have 20 calendar days from the date of service to file your Answer. However, Iowa code goes on to explain that, if the Petition was served by the secretary of state or department of transportation, you have 60 days from the date of service to file an Answer.

Failure to file an Answer by the deadline may result in a default judgment being entered against the defendant. Once a default judgment has been obtained, the plaintiff has the same rights as any other judgment creditor to attempt to collect on the judgment.

However, a defendant may file a motion with the court to set aside a default judgment, which may be granted if the judgment was entered as a mistake, the Petition was never served on the defendant or was entered due to fraud or misrepresentation by the plaintiff, or the judgment has been satisfied.

If a defendant has missed the deadline to file an Answer and a default judgment has not been entered, the defendant should file the Answer immediately, as the court may accept it even if filed a few days late.

Use Iowa Answer forms to respond to your case

SoloSuit’s Answer form is the easiest way to respond to a debt collection lawsuit. SoloSuit’s software makes it simple: just respond to a few questions about your case, and it will draft and personalized Answer document that includes all the proper legal language and formatting.

If you prefer to fill out an Answer on your own, there are a few options. You can:

  • Download and complete an Appearance and Answer of Defendant(s) form and file it electronically using the Iowa Judicial Branch Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) located here.
  • File the Appearance and Answer of Defendant(s) form in person if you obtain an exemption to the electronic filing requirement from the court.
  • Create your own Answer document.

Use these steps to respond to a debt collection case in Iowa

In Iowa, a plaintiff (the party initiating the case) must file and serve an Original Notice and Petition for Money Judgment on the defendant (the party being sued) in a lawsuit.

If the defendant is served with a Petition, they may file a motion to dismiss the case based on grounds such as the expiration of the statute of limitations or defective service of process. If a motion to dismiss is not filed, the defendant is generally required to file an Answer.

The defendant may also file a counterclaim and/or cross-claim along with their Answer.

The defendant's Answer is their opportunity to present their side of the story to the court. Follow these three steps to respond to a debt lawsuit with a written Answer in Iowa:

  1. Answer each claim listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff.

Below, we’ll explore each of these steps further. Don’t like reading? Check out this video to learn more instead:

1. Answer each claim listed in the Complaint.

The Complaint document lists all the claims against you. It’s your responsibility to respond to each one in corresponding order. In your Answer document, reply to each claim with one of the following responses:

  • Admit
  • Deny
  • Deny due to lack of knowledge

SoloSuit’s Answer form makes responding to each claim fast and easy.

On eForm 3.11 you can check a box denying, admitting, or partially admitting the claim. If you are preparing your own Answer, addressing the issues of the Petition can be as simple as stating that you “deny the claims.” Since the plaintiff has the burden of proving his claims, he must produce evidence at trial to prove that he has the right to sue you and that you owe the amount he claims.

You also have the option to admit certain allegations and deny others. For example, you may agree that you entered into a lease with the plaintiff but deny that you owe him any money. If you go this route, you must make sure that you address every allegation in the Petition. If the plaintiff has listed the allegations in numbered paragraphs, address each paragraph separately. For example, “I deny the allegations contained in paragraph 10 of the complaint.”

You should also list your defenses. These are the reasons why the plaintiff should not be able to collect the money he is suing for. We'll review potential defenses next.

2. Assert your affirmative defenses

Affirmative defenses are basically a list of reasons why you believe the plaintiff should not win the case. In Iowa, you must clearly list each affirmative defense that you have in your Answer. If you do not, you risk losing the right to raise the defense at trial.

The following is a list of common defenses under Iowa debt collection laws. Keep in mind that every case is different and that not all defenses will apply to your case. There may also be defenses available to you that are not listed below. Be sure to explore all potential affirmative defenses before you file your Answer.

  • Improper service. The plaintiff must serve the Original Notice and Petition on you using the procedures set forth in Iowa debt collection laws. If you are not properly served the case can be dismissed.
  • The Iowa debt collection statute of limitations has expired. Under Iowa debt collection laws, a plaintiff must sue you within a set amount of time. If he or she fails to file a complaint against you before the end of that period, then there is no standing to bring the case against you. He or she loses the right to sue you forever.
  • You do not owe the plaintiff any money. This defense is used if you did owe the plaintiff money but have since paid all or some of the balance. If you have paid it all, the case will be dismissed. If you paid part, the plaintiff will have to prove that there is still money owed to him.
  • Debt was discharged in bankruptcy. It is not uncommon for creditors to file suit following a bankruptcy discharge. While against the law, it unfortunately happens all the time. If the debt was listed in your bankruptcy case and you received a discharge, then the plaintiff cannot sue you.
  • The debt is unconscionable. This means that the plaintiff is asking for an amount of money that is excessive compared to the original debt amount or that the original agreement you entered into was entirely one-sided.
  • Unjust enrichment. This defense is available where awarding the plaintiff the amount claimed would result in what amounts to a financial windfall. For example, the plaintiff may be claiming an excessive level of interest on an outstanding debt.

Make the right defense the right way with SoloSuit.

3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff

Your Answer must be filed electronically using the Iowa Judicial Branch Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) located here. If you wish to file the Answer in person at the courthouse, you must obtain permission from the court. For instance, you may not have access to a computer or the internet, in which case the court should approve manually filing your Answer.

SoloSuit can file an Answer for you in all 50 states.

If you file your Answer electronically, it will automatically be served on the attorney for the plaintiff. If you file it in-person you will be required to serve the plaintiff's lawyer yourself.

Once you have filed you will receive a notice from the court giving you important information about the first hearing and other steps.

In addition to your Answer you may also file:

  • a Counterclaim (eForm 3.13) against the plaintiff (i.e., the plaintiff owes you money)
  • a Cross-Claim (eForm 3.14) against another defendant (i.e., another defendant named in the case owes you money)
  • a Petition against a party not named in the case that you believe is responsible for the plaintiff's claim (eForm 3.7)
  • an Affidavit of Property Exempt from Execution (eForm 3.21) to protect your assets when the plaintiff attempts to enforce the judgment

Example: Terry is being sued by Midland Credit Management for $4,000 in Iowa that she doesn't owe. She uses SoloSuit to respond to the debt lawsuit with an Answer before Iowa's deadline, which is 20 days. In her Answer document, Terry denies each claim against her and lists her affirmative defenses, including the fact that she already paid off the debt. SoloSuit electronically files the Answer for Terry, and after a few weeks, she finds out that Midland Credit Management is dismissing the case.

Check the Iowa statute of limitations on debt

To file a lawsuit against a debtor for an unpaid debt in Iowa, the creditor must do so before the deadline set by Iowa's statute of limitations for debt collection, governed by Iowa Code Chapter 614.

In Iowa, the statute of limitations for an unwritten contract is five years. This means that the statute of limitations on credit card debt is five years in Iowa. On the other hand, the statute of limitations for written contracts is ten years in Iowa.

If the creditor is unable to provide a copy of the written agreement, the Iowa statute of limitations is five years based on an oral contract. If the debtor signed a written agreement, such as a promissory note, and ceased making payments, the creditor has ten years from the date of the agreement to file a lawsuit in Iowa.

The table below further outlines the statute of limitations on different types of debt in Iowa:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Iowa

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 5 years
Oral contract 5 years
Unwritten contract 5 years
Written contract 10 years
Judgment 10 years

Settle your debt in Iowa before going to court

Maybe you know that you owe the debt. If this is the case, you might be wondering if debt settlement is a good option for you.

If you’ve been sued for debt, you can reach out to your creditors or debt collectors at any stage of the lawsuit to discuss debt settlement. Debt settlement is the process by which a consumer, like you, settles an outstanding debt for an amount that is less than the full amount owed.

SoloSettle, powered by SoloSuit, makes the debt settlement process simple.

As a tech-based approach to debt settlement, SoloSettle’s software can help you send and receive settlement offers until an agreement is reached. Then, it helps manage your documentation of the settlement and transfers your payment to the creditor or debt collector, keeping your financial information private and secure.

To learn more about how SoloSettle can help you settle your debt for good, watch this video:

Iowa Debt Collection Laws: What can you do when a process server for a debt collection lawsuit is harassing you in Iowa?

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Creditors, collection agencies, and attorneys can be relentless when trying to collect a debt from you.

Both the Iowa Debt Collection Practices Act and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offer you important rights and protections. For instance, collection agencies must follow certain procedures when attempting to collect a debt from you. They cannot:

  • Threaten violence against you
  • Contact family or friends to discuss your debt
  • Imply that they work for a law enforcement, government, or credit reporting agency
  • Misrepresent the amount of your debt
  • Call you in the middle of the night
  • Contact you if you are represented by an attorney
  • Contact you after you have informed them in writing that you don't want to be contacted

If you think a debt collector has been violating the law, contact an attorney or file a complaint with one of the following agencies:

Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50319

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Washington, DC 20508

Iowa legal aid organizations can help you

If you need help with your case but can't afford a lawyer, you may be eligible to receive free or low-cost legal services from:

Iowa Legal Aid Society
1111 Ninth Street, Suite 230, Des Moines, IA 50314

Key Takeaways

So, in short, here's the review on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Iowa.

Follow these three steps to respond to an Iowa debt lawsuit:

  1. Answer each claim listed in the Petition.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff.

Iowa’s statute of limitations on debt is five years for credit cards, oral contract, and unwritten contracts and ten years for written contracts. Check the statute of limitations on your debt before you make any payments on the account.

You can settle your Iowa debts for less before going to court. SoloSettle, powered by Solosuit, makes it easy to do this.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

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