In general, negative credit entries will stay on your credit report for seven years. However, the exact amount of time varies based on factors such as whether the delayed payment or bad debt is disputable, and the source of the bad credit. Understanding exactly what can lower your credit score can help you avoid such pitfalls, or dispute negative entries if they occur.
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Fair Credit Reporting Act
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, created in 1970, oversees all credit reporting between Experian, Equifax and Transunion -- the three major credit bureaus. It regulates how the bureaus communicate with creditors, employers and other companies seeking consumer credit information. The FCRA dictates how long indications of poor credit management stay on a report and the processes for getting bad credit entries removed.
Seven Year Wait
Most negative credit entries remain on your credit report for seven years. This includes late payments -- such paying a credit card bills more than 30 days after the due dates -- foreclosures, Chapter 13 bankruptcies and debt being sent to collections. There are, however, a few exceptions to the seven year practice. A tax lien, which is a notification from the IRS that it has a claim on your property because of unpaid taxes, is removed from your report after seven years. However, as long as
it's unpaid it can stay on your credit report indefinitely. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy, once completed, stays for 10 years. Keep in mind that the older a bad credit mark is, the less it counts against your credit score.
Additional Credit Entries
Additional credit items can lower your credit score as well. If you have a lawsuit that involves debt, a judgment against you generally can remain on your credit report for seven years. However, if your state has a longer statute of limitations, it might stay on your report longer than that. A credit check initiated by you, such as when you're applying for a new credit card, is a slight negative to your credit score and stays on your report for two years.
Getting Bad Credit Removed
In general, you can't get a bad credit listing removed from your report early. However, if the negative report is erroneous, you can take steps to get it removed. Draft a letter disputing the error, and send it to the credit bureau where the error is appearing. Include a copy of your credit report and documentation supporting your dispute. Mail the dispute via certified mail rather than filling out an online form. The process is the same if you notice that a negative credit entry remains on your report after it should have expired.