Start My Answer

Good Faith Exception – Definition

George Simons | October 19, 2022

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.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

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.

You when you beat Enhanced Recovery Company ^^

Summary: The good faith exception can excuse debt collectors when they use unfair debt collection practices. Here is SoloSuit's guide to the good faith exception and how it applies to debt collection cases.

Did you know that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you from certain tactics debt collection agencies use to recover their debt? Being in debt doesn't give a debt collector the right to harass you while trying to recover the amount, unless they are acting in “good faith.”

Here's everything you should know about your rights when dealing with debt collectors and the good faith exception rule.

Debt collectors cannot do the following

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from:

  • Pretending to work for a government agency to recover a debt you supposedly owe.
  • Threatening you with an arrest warrant if you don't pay what you owe.
  • Shaming you in public into paying the money you supposedly owe.
  • Discussing the debt with anyone else other than your attorney.
  • Attempting to collect an amount they know you don't owe.
  • Calling your workplace if they know or should have known that your employer does not Permit such calls.
  • Calling you before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Calling you if you inform them—in writing—to stop.
  • Refusing to identify themselves when you contact you.
  • Calling you using artificial voices or recordings.

Overview of the good faith exception rule

However, the law also acknowledges that there are times when debt collectors might contact you mistakenly. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 37 million phone numbers in the United States are recycled each year. For this reason, there's always a possibility that a debt collection company may contact you by mistake, thinking you're someone else.

When a debt collector violates FDCPA practices, they may be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000 to the individual they mistakenly contacted, or contacted in a manner that violated a provision of the FDCPA. But the court must also establish that the violation was intentional. If the violation was unintentional, the court would consider it an honest mistake.

This is what is often referred to as the good faith exception rule. If the court determines that the debt collector acted in good faith, then the individual who was contacted by the debt collector might not prevail in a civil action. Here's an example of a good faith situation.

A debt collector inputs an incorrect single digit when calling a consumer. Yet, surprisingly, the phone call goes through. In that case, the recipient of the call may not be able to sue the debt collection agency for violating FDCPA rules. Instead, the court will determine that the debt collection agency made an honest mistake.

The same applies if the consumer wrote down the wrong phone number. A single wrong digit could make a huge difference in a phone call. As a result, the debt collection agency may end up calling the wrong person. But does that mean that the debt collector should be held responsible for violating FDCPA rules? The answer is no. This could be a case of an honest mistake.

What to do if a debt collection agency sues you

If you receive a notice that a debt collection agency has filed a lawsuit against you, it's always advisable to take it seriously. Some consumers ignore such notices, hoping that the debt will magically disappear. It doesn't.

Instead, it gives the collection agency an upper hand in pursuing the debt. The worst thing about it is that you may be sued for a debt you don't even owe in the first place. To avoid this, it's essential that you respond to the lawsuit.

When you're being used over debt, you'll receive two documents:

  • A Summons: This document officially notifies you of the legal action taken against (lawsuit) you by the debt collection agency.
  • A Complaint: This document explains why you're being sued, providing a list of the specific claims being made against you.

It's also important to note that these two documents have different names in some states. For example, in Texas a Summons is known as a Citation, while a Complaint is referred to as a Petition.

Follow these three steps to respond to the Summons and Complaint and win in court:

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

Now, let's break down each step a little further.

1. Respond to each claim in the Complaint

Before responding to the Complaint, make sure you read and understand every paragraph. Then, you can either admit, deny, or simply claim that you don't understand a particular paragraph.

However, from the legal perspective, it's always advisable to deny all claims. This strategy forces the debt collector to prove all allegations raised against you. As a result, you'll be surprised to realize that you don't even owe some of the debt listed in the complaints.

When you fall back on your debt payments, the original creditor will try to contact you several times. If they fail to reach you after a certain period, usually 150 days after your last payment, they will sell the debt to a collection agency. Depending on their backlog, the collection agency might also sell the debt to another agency. The cycle continues, and in the process, the collectors might lose track of what you owe.

2. Assert your affirmative defenses

When you assert your affirmative defenses, you're basically providing reasons why the debt collector doesn't have a case against you. There are many reasons the debt collection lawsuit may be invalid. Some of the most common defenses include:

  • You don't own the debt account.
  • The debt has been paid or written off.
  • The contract with the debt collector has been canceled.
  • You were a co-signer to the debt but were not informed of your rights as the co-signer.
  • The debt has been partially paid.

It's also important to note that asserting your affirmative defenses is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you don't claim your defenses at this stage, you can't bring them up later.

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

You have up to 35 days, depending on which state you live in, to file your Answer with the court before you lose by default. If you lose by a default judgment, the debt collector can garnish your wages or put liens on your property as a way to recover the debt.

After creating your Answer, follow these steps:

  • Print two copies of the Answer.
  • Send one copy to the court where the lawsuit was filed.
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff's lawyer via USPS certified mail with a return receipt requested.

How SoloSuit Can Help

Many consumers face numerous challenges when responding to a debt collection lawsuit. For example, even if your Answer document is well-drafted, it is useless if you file it to the wrong address. In most cases, the court's address and the mailing address are usually two different things. If you fail to submit your Answer on time and appropriately, the court might pass a default judgment against you, allowing the plaintiff to pursue other means to recover the debt, including wage garnishment.

But that's not something you need to worry about when using SoloSuit.

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.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

Get Started

We have answers.
Join our community of over 40,000 people.

You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.

Ask a Question

>>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.)

How to answer a summons for debt collection in your state

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on how to beat every debt collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? Were making guides on how to beat each one.

Win against credit card companies

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

Get answers to these FAQs

Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.

Why do debt collectors block their phone numbers?

How long do debt collectors take to respond to debt validation letters?

What are the biggest debt collector companies in the US?

Is Zombie Debt Still a Problem in 2019?

SoloSuit FAQ

If a car is repossessed, do I still owe the debt?

Is Portfolio Recovery Associates Legit?

Is There a Judgment Against Me Without my Knowledge?

Should I File Bankruptcy Before or After a Judgment?

What is a default judgment?— What do I do?

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

What Happens If Someone Sues You and You Have No Money?

What Happens If You Never Answer Debt Collectors?

What Happens When a Debt Is Sold to a Collection Agency

What is a Stipulated Judgment?

What is the Deadline for a Defendants Answer to Avoid a Default Judgment?

Can a Judgement Creditor Take my Car?

Can I Settle a Debt After Being Served?

Can I Stop Wage Garnishment?

Can You Appeal a Default Judgement?

Do I Need a Debt Collection Defense Attorney?

Do I Need a Payday Loans Lawyer?

Do student loans go away after 7 years? — Student Loan Debt Guide

Am I Responsible for My Spouses Medical Debt?

Should I Marry Someone With Debt?

Can a Debt Collector Leave a Voicemail?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

What Happens If a Defendant Does Not Pay a Judgment?

How Does Debt Assignment Work?

Can You Serve Someone with a Collections Lawsuit at Their Work?

What Is a Warrant in Debt?

How Many Times Can a Judgment be Renewed in Oklahoma?

Can an Eviction Be Reversed?

Does Debt Consolidation Have Risks?

What Happens If You Avoid Getting Served Court Papers?

Does Student Debt Die With You?

Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work in Texas?

How Much Do You Have to Be in Debt to File for Chapter 7?

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Washington?

How Long Does a Judgment Last?

Can Private Disability Payments Be Garnished?

Can Debt Collectors Call From Local Numbers?

Does the Fair Credit Reporting Act Work in Florida?

The Truth: Should You Never Pay a Debt Collection Agency?

Should You Communicate with a Debt Collector in Writing or by Telephone?

Do I Need a Debt Negotiator?

What Happens After a Motion for Default Is Filed?

Can a Process Server Leave a Summons Taped to My Door?

Learn More With These Additional Resources:

Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.

How to Make a Debt Validation Letter - The Ultimate Guide

How to Make a Motion to Compel Arbitration Without an Attorney

How to Stop Wage Garnishment — Everything You Need to Know

How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

Defending Yourself in Court Against a Debt Collector

Tips on you can to file an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection agency

Advice on how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Effective strategies for how to get back on track after a debt lawsuit

New Hampshire Statute of Limitations on Debt

Sample Cease and Desist Letter Against Debt Collectors

The Ultimate Guide to Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah

West Virginia Statute of Limitations on Debt

What debt collectors cannot do — FDCPA explained

Defending Yourself in Court Against Debt Collector

How to Liquidate Debt

Arkansas Statute of Limitations on Debt

Youre Drowning in Debt — Heres How to Swim

Help! Im Being Sued by My Debt Collector

How to Make a Motion to Vacate Judgment

How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont

North Dakota Statute of Limitations on Debt

ClearPoint Debt Management Review

Indiana Statute of Limitations on Debt

Oregon Eviction Laws - What They Say

CuraDebt Debt Settlement Review

How to Write a Re-Aging Debt Letter

How to Appear in Court by Phone

How to Use the Doctrine of Unclean Hands

Debt Consolidation in Eugene, Oregon

Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next

How to Make a Debt Settlement Agreement

Received a 3-Day Eviction Notice? Heres What to Do

How to Answer a Lawsuit for Debt Collection

Tips for Leaving the Country With Unpaid Credit Card Debt

Kansas Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection

How to File in Small Claims Court in Iowa

How to File a Civil Answer in Kings County Supreme Court

Roseland Associates Debt Consolidation Review

How to Stop a Garnishment

Debt Eraser Review

Do Debt Collectors Ever Give Up?

Can They Garnish Your Wages for Credit Card Debt?

How Often Do Credit Card Companies Sue for Non-Payment?

How Long Does a Judgement Last?

​​How Long Before a Creditor Can Garnish Wages?

How to Beat a Bill Collector in Court