Hannah Cagle | March 21, 2023
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. Follow these three steps to make your Answer: 1) respond to each issue of the Complaint, 2) assert your affirmative defenses, and 3) File the Answer in court and send a copy to the plaintiff. Keep in mind that the statute of limitations on debt is six 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.
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.
As noted above, you only have a short period to respond to a Summons and Complaint:
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.
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.
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 NYCourts.gov.
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:
Keep reading to learn more about these three steps, otherwise, you can check out this video:
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:
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:
SoloSuit helps you understand how to respond.
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.
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.
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 six years. When the LVNV Funding lawyers receive Danny’s Answer, they decide to dismiss the case.
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.)
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 New York Civil Practice and Law Rules Section 213, the statute of limitations for consumer credit transactions in New York is six years. In other words, the New York statute of limitations on debt is six years, generally.
The six years is counted from the more recent of:
After six 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:
|Credit Card||6 years|
|Oral contracts||6 years|
|Written contracts||6 years|
|Open contracts||6 years|
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:
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.
Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.
Under federal and New York law, debt collectors also may not use in improper, harassing, or deceptive practices, such as:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Counties served: Bronx, Kings, New York, Queens, Richmond
Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
90 Maple Avenue, White Plains, NY 10601
Counties served: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, Westchester
Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee, Inc.
One Helen Keller Way, 5th Floor, Hempstead, NY 11550
Counties Served: Nassau, Suffolk
Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.
Main Seneca Building, 237 Main Street, 4th Floor, Buffalo, NY 14203
Counties served: Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming
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 NYCourts.gov.
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:
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.
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now are are just look for support, we're here for you.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Going to Court for Credit Card Debt — Key Tips
How to Negotiate Credit Card Debts
How to Settle a Credit Card Debt Lawsuit — Ultimate Guide
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
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