How Long Can Items Remain On My Credit?

One of the most common credit questions that I hear on a weekly basis is as follows: "How long can an item account remain on my credit report?" If you are a credit savvy consumer then you already know that, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, there is a legal statute of limitations regarding how long negative information is allowed to stay on your credit reports. However, the time frame is different for individual types of accounts. Here is a great cheat sheet for you to use when you are trying to determine whether an account has been on your report too long.

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Collection Accounts:  A collection can remain on your credit for 7  years from the date of default. In this case the date of default is the date that the account became 180 days past due. Please note, the 7 year time clock begins when the ORIGINAL account becomes 180 days delinquent, not when the account is sold to a collection agency. If a collection agency is illegally attempting to re-age your account or if the agency is trying to manipulate the date of initial default on your account then you have the right to dispute the account under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Charge-Off Accounts: If an account on your credit reports has been charged off then the account can remain on your credit for 7 years from the charge-off date.

Bankruptcies: Chapters 7, 11, and some chapter 13 bankruptcies (only those which have not yet been discharged or have been dismissed) are allowed to remain on your report for 10 years from the date they were initially filed. Discharged chapter 13 bankruptcies are allowed to remain on your report for 7 years from the discharge date, but that date is not allowed to exceed 10 years from the original filing date.

Repossessions: A repossession should be removed from your report 7 years from the date the auto loan initially went into default.

Judgments: A judgment is allowed to remain on your report for 7 years from the date it was filed.

Tax Liens: Unpaid tax liens are allowed to remain on your credit report permanently. However, paid and released tax liens (federal, city, state, and county) should be removed from your credit reports 7 years from the date they are released. (NOTE: If you have paid a federal tax lien you may be able to have the tax lien withdrawn and removed from your reports early.)

Inquiries: When someone looks at a copy of your credit report an "inquiry" is placed on your credit report. Certain types of inquiries have the potential to negatively affect your credit scores (i.e. inquiries that occur when you apply for financing for a loan, credit card, car, mortgage, etc.). These types of inquiries are known as "hard" inquiries and are allowed to remain on your report for 2 years.

When you look at your own credit report this is a "soft" inquiry. It does not hurt your scores at all and it can remain on your credit report for 6 months. Finally, if your credit report was pulled for a pre-screened offer then this type of inquiry will not hurt your scores and it should be removed from your report after 6 months. Remember, you can always opt out of having your credit pulled for pre-screened offers at www.optoutprescreen.com.

You have rights! The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) exists to protect you if accounts are being reported on your credit report past the legal statute of limitations.  Check your credit reports at least 1-2 times every year and if you find errors or violations you can dispute them or have a professional to dispute them for you and increase your odds of success. You can access your reports for free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com. However, a fee will apply (per credit bureau) if you wish to access your credit scores. If you would like to compare additional sites where you may access all 3 of your credit scores, CLICK HERE

About the Author:

Michelle Black is an author and leading credit expert with over a decade of experience in the credit industry. She specializes in the areas of credit reporting, credit scoring, identity theft, budgeting, and debt eradication. She is featured monthly at credit seminars, podcasts, and in print. You can connect with Michelle on Facebook here