How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in New York

George Simons

September 24, 2019

“I like waking up in the morning and getting sued” — said no one ever. Getting sued for a debt is the worst. This article will make the process of responding to a debt lawsuit a little bit easier and tell you how to answer a summons for debt collection in New York.

Below, you'll find helpful topics on how to answer a summons for debt collection in the Empire State. This list includes information specific to filing in New York, like state deadlines and forms.

New York Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

20 days - if served personally (documents were handed to you by another person)

30 days - served in any other way

New York Answer to Summons Forms

NYC Answer Form - This is the standard Answer, recommended for most cases.

Answer for Consumer Credit Transaction

E-file - New York has an e-filing option that is fairly user-friendly. Use this link to file your answer electronically over the internet. No snail mail required!

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in New York

You know you're being sued for a debt if you receive a document in the mail saying you're being sued for a debt. This document is called a Summons and Complaint. Normally, you only have 20 days to respond if the Summons and Complaint were handed to you personally by another person and you have 30 days if it was given to you by the mail or any other way. You can respond with either an Answer document or a Motion; usually, you'll want to respond with an Answer document.

There are three steps to respond to a complaint.

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

Let's take a look at each one.

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

Answering the complaint can be scary, but with these instructions it will be simple. Just read the complaint and then decide how you want to respond to each numbered paragraph. You can respond in one of three ways:

  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • I don't know

Just choose one of these answers and write it into your Answer. If you choose “disagree” you can explain why you disagree.

Use these official instructions to make your complaint in New York. On the New York Answer Form, you can simply check the “General Denial” box if you disagree with everything in the complaint.

2. Assert affirmative defenses.

To assert affirmative defenses, you simply state reasons why the person suing you has no case. Add the relevant defenses to your answer.

Here are some of the more common defenses we see:

  • The account with the debt is not your account
  • The contract was already canceled. Therefore you don't owe the creditor anything.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline on an action. In this case, the statute of limitations sets the deadline at 6 years, so you can't be sued for a debt based on a contract from six years ago.
  • The debt has been paid or excused.
  • The debt has been partially paid.
  • You were a co-signer but were not informed of your rights as a co-signer.

These are a few of the many affirmative defenses. Being unable to pay the debt is not a legal defense to the debt.

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

In many states, actually filing the answer with the court is the hardest part of the process. Luckily, it's a bit easier in New York, because New York has an e-filing system.

To e-file your documents, simply go here to get started.

You'll need to pay a fee to e-file. The fee ranges from $10-$140. Go here to see the fee table.

In most cases, e-filing your papers will also serve the papers by email on the person suing you; so you won't need to mail the papers to them also.

If you don't want to e-file, here's what you do.

  • Print two copies of your Answer
  • Mail one copy to the court
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff's attorney.

The address for both should be in the Summons and Complaint you received in the mail. The attorney's address should be on the top left of the first page. The court's address should be in the first two paragraphs.