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How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in New York (2024 Guide)

Hannah Locklear | April 11, 2024

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Fact-checked by George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD/MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

Summary: You have 10-30 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in New York. You can use the SoloSuit Answer form or other state forms to help you get started. In your Answer, respond to each issue of the Complaint and assert your affirmative defenses. Then file the Answer in court and send a copy to the plaintiff. Since the statute of limitations on debt is only three years in New York, and you can use this as a defense to get your case dismissed.

Getting sued is one of the most stressful experiences a person can have — especially if you're already struggling to get out from under debt.

Lucky for you, we’ve created this guide to show you how to respond to a Summons for debt collection in New York. This includes state-specific deadlines, fees, forms, and laws you should know. But first, let’s explain how a debt lawsuit works in New York and go over some definitions.

  • Defendant: this is you, or the person/company being sued.
  • Plaintiff: this is the creditor or debt collector that is suing you.
  • Summons: this is the legal document that notifies you of the lawsuit.
  • Complaint: this is the legal document that lists all the reasons you’re being sued, also known as claims or allegations.

When you get sued for debt in New York, you’ll receive a Summons and Complaint. It can be delivered to you (or “served”) in three ways: hand-delivery to you personally, hand-delivery to a suitable person at your residence and mailing copies, or leaving the papers at a reasonable place where you’re likely to find them and mailing copies.

Once you’ve received notice of a debt lawsuit against you, the clock starts ticking for you to respond by filing a written Answer into the case.

Keep reading to learn how to draft and file your Answer in New York.

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Answer a New York debt lawsuit before the deadline

As noted above, you only have a short period to respond to a Summons and Complaint:

  • 10 days if the papers were handed to you personally and the case is outside of New York City, or
  • 20 days if the papers were handed to you personally in New York City, or
  • 30 days if the papers were delivered in any other way.

This includes weekends and holidays.

If you don't file your Answer by this deadline, usually the plaintiff will automatically win when the court orders a default judgment against you.

Default judgments typically give the plaintiff everything they ask for, including interest and court fees. This means you may end up owing much more than your original debt — without even being able to tell your side of the story! It also grants them the ability to take money from your paychecks or your bank accounts. The judgment will also show up on your credit report, where it can stay for years.

You can avoid a default judgment by filing an Answer on time and showing up at all hearings.

New York Answer to Summons forms

The easiest and fastest way to draft a response to a debt collection lawsuit is this Answer form. SoloSuit walks you through the process of drafting your Answer in minutes. All you have to do is respond to a few questions about the case.

Here's a sample of SoloSuit's Answer form.

Otherwise, you can create your own Answer or use New York’s general form. While these two options are still better than ignoring the case, you may find that it takes longer to respond on your own or fill out a form without any guidance.

SoloSuit walks you through the process of drafting an Answer that will build you a strong case. You won't have to hire an attorney to represent you with this process because of SoloSuit's software that makes responding simple and easy.

Answer Filing Fees for New York

Great news! You don't have to pay a fee to file your Answer in New York.

However, depending on the court, you may have to pay fees to file other types of documents, such as motions. You can find a list of filing fees on

Follow these steps to respond to a debt collection case in New York

If you've been sued for debt in New York, you might think you have to hire an attorney to fight back. SoloSuit empowers you to represent yourself in court, saving yourself the time, cost, and stress of finding an attorney.

Follow these three steps to respond to a debt lawsuit in New York and increase your chances of winning by 7x:

  1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

Keep reading to learn more about these three steps, otherwise, you can check out this video:

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint

Responding to a Complaint on your own might seem scary. But it doesn't have to be.

At the beginning of a lawsuit, you can just make a general denial of all claims in the Complaint. This is because in a consumer debt case, the plaintiff has the “burden of proof.” This means that it's up to the plaintiff to show evidence that:

  • They have the right to sue you,
  • The debt belongs to you, and
  • You owe the exact amount asked for in the Complaint.

By making a general denial, you can force the plaintiff to come up with that evidence. Or if you want, you can also respond to each numbered paragraph in your Answer by stating one of the following:

  • You admit the claim.
  • You deny the claim.
  • You don't know if the claim is true.

SoloSuit helps you understand how to respond.

2. Assert affirmative defenses

Your defenses are another key part of your Answer. Your defenses are the reasons why the plaintiff shouldn't win the case.

Below are some common defenses in a debt collection case. Every case is different, so only include the defenses you think may apply to your case. You can have multiple defenses, including defenses different than the ones listed below.

  • Improper service. There are specific rules for how a Summons and Complaint can be delivered to you. If the plaintiff didn't follow these rules, you should raise this defense.
  • You paid all or some of the money. You can use this defense if you paid all or some of the debt that the plaintiff is asking for. If you only paid part of the money, this may only be a partial defense.
  • No business relationship with the plaintiff. If you don't know the plaintiff, you should state this in your Answer. But that doesn't mean you don't owe them money. This is because some companies, called “debt buyers,” make money by buying and collecting debt. This practice is legal. So it's possible your original creditor sold your debt to a party that you don't know.
  • Unjust enrichment. You can use this defense if you think the plaintiff is asking for an amount of money that's excessive compared to your original debt amount. But keep in mind that over time, interest can significantly increase the amount you originally owed.
  • Unconscionability. You can use this defense when the agreement that resulted in your debt was extremely one-sided and unfair.
  • Statute of limitations has lapsed. The statute of limitations is the legal deadline for filing a lawsuit (see “Statute of Limitations on Debt in New York” below). If you think the deadline has passed, you can use this defense.
  • Debt was discharged in bankruptcy. You can use this defense if you declared bankruptcy and the debt you're being sued for was discharged. Discharging debt in bankruptcy means you no longer owe the money.
  • You're a victim of identity theft. Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information and engages in transactions pretending to be you. If this happened to you, you can use this as a defense. You're not responsible for any debt incurred by the identity thief.

SoloSuit makes it easy to assert the right affirmative defenses.

The list above isn't complete — you may have other defenses. Some localities (such as New York City) also have special legal defenses that aren't available elsewhere.

You should be sure to include all your defenses in your Answer. But keep in mind that financial hardship alone is not a defense. Unfortunately, a creditor can still win a case against you, even if you've lost your job or have mounting medical bills.

3. File the Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff

Once you've completed your Answer, it's time to file. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the deadline to do this.

SoloSuit files for you in all 50 states.

If you got an e-filing notice with the Summons, you can serve and file your Answer online using the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system. If you don't want to file online, you should file your Answer in the court where the case was started. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself.

You'll also have to serve the plaintiff with a copy of your Answer. You can do this by having someone 18 or older (not you or anyone involved in the case) mail a copy to the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff has a lawyer, the lawyer should get a copy of your Answer by mail, too. The person who mails your Answer for you will then have to fill out an Affidavit of Service by Mail form. You should file this proof of service form with the court and keep a copy for yourself.

If you have any questions about how to properly file and serve your Answer, you should contact the court clerk's office. Some courts even let you tell your Answer to the clerk in person.

Once you've filed your Answer, the court clerk will give you information about the first hearing and other next steps.

Draft and file an Answer online in minutes with SoloSuit.

Now, let’s take a look at an example of responding to a debt lawsuit in New York.

Example: Danny is being sued by LVNV Funding in New York. The Summons and Complaint were delivered to him personally in Oneida County, meaning he has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit. Danny uses SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer into the case. In his Answer document, Danny denies most of the claims and lists the expired statute of limitations on debt as one of his affirmative defenses. Since Danny hasn’t been active on his debt account for nearly seven years, LVNV Funding cannot sue him since the NY statute of limitations on debt is only three years. When the LVNV Funding lawyers receive Danny’s Answer, they decide to dismiss the case.

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.)

The statute of limitations on most debt in New York is three years

To sue for unpaid debt, a creditor has to file the lawsuit before a deadline set by law. This is called the statute of limitations.

Under N.Y. Civ. Prac. L. & R. §214-i, the statute of limitations for consumer credit transactions in New York is three years. In other words, the New York statute of limitations on debt is three years for most types of debt.

The three years is counted from the more recent of:

  • When the repayment became due, or
  • When you made the last payment.

After three years, the creditor can no longer sue you. So if you think you're being sued beyond this deadline, you should raise this defense in your Answer.

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

Statute of Limitations on Debt in New York

Debt Type Deadline
Credit card 3 years
Medical 3 years
Student loan 3 year
Auto loan 3 years
Personal loan 3 years
Mortgage 6 years
Judgment 20 years
Source: N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 211, § 213, and § 214-I

New York debt collection laws can protect you

If you've run into hard times, it's possible that more than one creditor is trying to recover money from you.

If you don't pay, after a while creditors often hire a debt collection company like Covington Credit to try to collect the money for them.

You may already be familiar with these companies. Some call from blocked numbers and use aggressive tactics to scare you into paying. And some even try to recover “zombie debt” — debt that you no longer owe for various reasons or maybe isn't even yours!

Any time you're dealing with a debt collector, it's important to know your rights.

For example, when a debt collector contacts you for the first time, by law they must send you a letter within 5 days stating:

  • the debt amount;
  • the creditor's name;
  • a statement that the debt collector will assume the debt is valid unless you dispute the validity of all or any part of the debt within 30 days of receiving the notice; and
  • a statement that if you ask in writing, the debt collector will give you the original creditor's name and address.

If you don't think you owe part or any of the debt, or if you want to know the name and address of the original creditor, you should send a Debt Validation Letter to the debt collector within 30 days by certified mail.

If you do this, the debt collector has to stop trying to collect the debt until it verifies the debt or the original creditor information.

Not sued yet?

Use our Debt Validation Letter.

Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.

Let's Do It

Under federal and New York law, debt collectors also may not use in improper, harassing, or deceptive practices, such as:

  • threatening violence or by using profane language
  • reaching out to people you know, except to get your contact information
  • implying they're a law enforcement agency, government agency, or credit reporting agency
  • misrepresenting the amount of your debt or the legal status of your debt
  • calling you repeatedly and/or at unreasonable times
  • contacting you at work if the debt collector knows your employer doesn't approve of such contact
  • contacting you if you're represented by an attorney (they have to contact your lawyer instead)
  • contacting you after you've stated in writing that you don't want to be contacted (though they can still resort to legal action)

You should keep written records of all contact with debt collectors.

If you think a debt collector is using illegal tactics, you can contact an attorney or file a Complaint with one of the following agencies:

New York State Attorney General
Consumer Frauds & Protection Bureau
120 Broadway
New York, NY 10271

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Washington, DC 20508

If you'd like to learn more about getting your finances in order and avoiding debt in the future, you might also consider taking a personal finance course.

Facing financial challenges can be overwhelming, but you don't have to navigate them alone. The Debt Lawyer specializes in offering comprehensive bankruptcy solutions for residents of New Jersey and New York with a team of seasoned team of legal professionals dedicated to providing personalized guidance every step of the way. Whether you're considering filing for bankruptcy or just seeking clarity about your financial situation, you have resources.

New York legal aid organizations can help you

If you need help with your case but can't afford a lawyer, you may be able to get free or low-cost services from a legal aid organization. Your annual income will typically have to be at or below a certain level to qualify.

Below are some organizations that may be able to help.

Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc.
120 Bleecker Street, Utica, NY 13501
(877) 777-6152

Counties served: Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, Otsego

Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Inc.
95 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206
(800) 462-2922

Counties served: Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, Washington

Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc.
361 South Main Street, Geneva, NY 14456
(585) 325-2520

Counties served: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chemung, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, Wayne, Yates

Legal Services NYC
40 Worth Street, Suite 606, New York, NY 10013
(917) 661-4500

Counties served: Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
90 Maple Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601
(914) 949-1305

Counties served: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester

Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee, Inc.
One Helen Keller Way, 5th Floor, Hempstead, NY 11550
(516) 292-8100

Counties Served: Nassau, Suffolk

Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.
Main Seneca Building, 237 Main Street, 4th Floor, Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 847-0650

Counties served: Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming

New York court locations

Your Summons will tell you the civil court in which you're being sued. If you have questions about how to properly prepare and file your Answer, you can usually talk to the court clerk. You can find the contact information for any court on

Key Takeaways

If you're sued for unpaid debt, the most important thing to remember is to file your Answer before the deadline!

Otherwise, the plaintiff may automatically win.

The deadline is 10-20 days from receipt if the Summons and Complaint was delivered to you personally, or 30 days if it was delivered any other way.

Here's a recap of the process:

  • Respond to each issue of the Complaint.
  • Assert your affirmative defenses.
  • File the Answer, and send a copy to the plaintiff.

If you need help with this process, SoloSuit’s got you covered.

SoloSuit is a simple-to-use online application for preparing an Answer to a debt collection Complaint. Preparing your Answer with SoloSuit is free. We can also review, file, and serve the Answer for you for an additional fee.

Don't risk losing your case because you missed the Answer deadline — click here to get started with SoloSuit today.

How to Answer a Summons for debt collection in all 50 states

Here's a list of guides on how to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in each state:

The Ultimate 50 State Guide

Guides on how to resolve debt with every debt collector

Are you being sued by a debt collector? We’re making guides on how to resolve debt with each one.

Resolve your debt with your creditor

Some creditors, banks, and lenders have an internal collections department. If they come after you for a debt, Solosuit can still help you respond and resolve the debt. Here’s a list of guides on how to resolve debt with different creditors.

Settle your medical debt

Having a health challenge is stressful, but dealing medical debt on top of it is overwhelming. Here are some resources on how to manage medical debt.

Guides on arbitration

If the thought of going to court stresses you out, you’re not alone. Many Americans who are sued for credit card debt utilize a Motion to Compel Arbitration to push their case out of court and into arbitration.

Below are some resources on how to use an arbitration clause to your advantage and win a debt lawsuit.

Stop calls from debt collectors

Do you keep getting calls from an unknown number, only to realize that it’s a debt collector on the other line? If you’ve been called by any of the following numbers, chances are you have collectors coming after you, and we’ll tell you how to stop them.

Federal debt collection laws can protect you

Knowing your rights makes it easier to stand up for your rights. Below, we’ve compiled all our articles on federal debt collection laws that protect you from unfair practices.

Get debt relief in your state

We’ve created a specialized guide on how to find debt relief in all 50 states, complete with steps to take to find relief, state-specific resources, and more.

Debt collection laws in all 50 states

Debt collection laws vary by state, so we have compiled a guide to each state’s debt collection laws to make it easier for you to stand up for your rights—no matter where you live.

Statute of limitations on debt state guides

Like all debt collection laws, the statute of limitations on debt varies by state. So, we wrote a guide on each state’s statutes. Check it out below.

Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State (Best Guide)

Check the status of your court case

Don’t have time to go to your local courthouse to check the status of your case? We’ve created a guide on how to check the status of your case in every state, complete with online search tools and court directories.

How to stop wage garnishment in your state

Forgot to respond to your debt lawsuit? The judge may have ordered a default judgment against you, and with a default judgment, debt collectors can garnish your wages. Here are our guides on how to stop wage garnishment in all 50 states.

How to settle a debt in your state

Debt settlement is one of the most effective ways to resolve a debt and save money. We’ve created a guide on how to settle your debt in all 50 states. Find out how to settle in your state with a simple click and explore other debt settlement resources below.

How to settle with every debt collector

Not sure how to negotiate a debt settlement with a debt collector? We are creating guides to help you know how to start the settlement conversation and increase your chances of coming to an agreement with every debt collector.

Other debt settlement resources

Personal loan and debt relief reviews

We give a factual review of the following debt consolidation, debt settlement, and loan organizations and companies to help you make an informed decision before you take on a debt.

Civil law legal definitions

You can represent yourself in court. Save yourself the time and cost of finding an attorney, and use the following resources to understand legal definitions better and how they may apply to your case.

Get answers to these FAQs on debt collection

How-to debt guides

Learn more with these additional debt resources

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"Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly is kinda scary. I started researching on YouTube and found SoloSuit's channel. The videos were so helpful, easy to understand and encouraging. When I reached out to SoloSuit they were on it. Very professional, impeccably prompt. Thanks for the service!" - Heather

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