Answering the Complaint

If you got a Summons and Complaint, you need to deliver a written Answer form to the plaintiff and the Court. Your Answer is what you tell the court about what the plaintiff said in the Complaint. The Answer tells the court your defenses or reasons the plaintiff must not win the case.

The easiest way to make your Answer is to use the Foreclosure Answer DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Form program. This online program walks you step-by-step through the paperwork you need to complete, explains defenses and gives you helpful definitions and legal information. When you finish the program you get the court forms you need and instructions of what to do next.

If you can't use the DIY Form computer program you can print paper forms and fill them out by hand. If you are not sure that everything said in the Complaint is true, your Answer should say, “General Denial” at the beginning. After the General Denial, your answer form should say any defense or explanation that you might have. It is very important to write down any defenses you want to tell the court. If you do not put a defense in your answer you may not be allowed to talk about it later in the case. You may also make a counterclaim in your Answer. Here is a sample Foreclosure Answer Form, or you can make your own. Read Common Defenses in a Foreclosure Case for a list of possible defenses.

If the complaint has a Verification at the end of it, this means that the plaintiff swore that the complaint is true. If there is a verification you should make a verified Answer. You do this by signing the Answer in front of a notary public. If you got an E-filing Notice with the court papers, this mean that you can serve and file your Answer over the internet using NYSCEF, the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system. Read about E-filing to see if this is something you want to do. If not, you can file your Answer in the same court where the case was started.

To serve the plaintiff with a copy of your Answer have someone 18 or older (not you and not involved in the case) mail or deliver a copy to the plaintiff’s lawyer. The person who does this for you must fill out an Affidavit of Service form. Then, make sure you file this proof of service form with the Court and keep a copy for yourself. Read How Legal Papers are Delivered for more information.

When to Answer/2nd Chance to Answer

The time to Answer the Summons and Complaint is either 20 or 30 days, depending on how you got the papers:

  • 20 days - if the Summons was given to you by personal (in hand) delivery
  • 30 days - if the Summons was given to you in any other way.

The time period includes weekends and holidays.

If you don’t Answer in time, but you attend the first Settlement Conference, you get a 2nd chance to answer the complaint. Your time to Answer is extended for an additional 30 days after the first conference. You do not have to make a motion to file a late Answer.


What Happens if You Don’t Answer

If you don’t Answer, the plaintiff can get a default judgment against you and you can lose your home. This can happen even if you attend the Settlement Conference. If you don’t Answer, the Court will not consider any defenses to the foreclosure that you have. You also may not get any future notices from the Court about what is going on in your case. Your house may be sold without you knowing it. If you don’t want to defend the foreclosure, but want to get notices of what is happening, you can file a Notice of Appearance form with the Court. See Forms.

To learn how to ask the Court to vacate a default judgment, go to Vacating a Default Judgment.


Filing a Late Answer

If your time to Answer has run out, ask the plaintiff to agree to let you file a late Answer. If the plaintiff says no, you can ask the Court by making a Motion or an Order to Show Cause. When you do, ask the Court to stop the rest of the case until the Judge decides if you can file an Answer. Attach a copy of the Answer you would file if the Court says yes. Read How to Ask the Court for Something to learn about Motions and Orders to Show Cause.


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