Having old debt on your credit report can be a frustrating and even embarrassing experience, particularly when it’s more than seven years old. According to the regulations put in place by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), most negative credit information, like late payments and collections, need to be removed from your credit report after 7 years.
If you’re struggling with debt older than 7 years on your credit report, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re going to look at just why debt may stay on your report for more than 7 years, and if there’s anything you can do about it.
In the end, if you’ve done what you should and are still showing old debt on your credit report that should have been removed, we’ll tell you where to turn for legal help.
The 7-year rule is a provision in the FCRA that limits the duration that most negative credit information can remain on your report. This covers things like late payments, charge-offs, and collection accounts, but there are some exceptions to this rule. There are three general categories for exceptions to this rule: tax liens, criminal convictions, and some forms of bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for longer than 7 years.
There are situations where a municipal or federal entity places a lien on your property that requires the property owner to pay a specified amount of money. Paid tax liens can remain on your credit report for 7 years, but if the lien remains unpaid it can stay on your credit report indefinitely.
While many people don’t realize it, criminal convictions are listed on your credit report. Criminal convictions also do not fall under the 7-year rule and can remain on your credit report forever. The good news is that criminal convictions aren’t used in any calculations of your credit score. However, potential landlords, employers, and even lenders that do a credit check may view your application negatively.
Bankruptcy filings have the potential to stay on your credit report for more than 7 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy protection. Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which involves a debt repayment plan, will only be on your credit report for 7 years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, on the other hand, involves liquidating your assets to pay off debts, and this type of bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years.
While private student loans follow the same rules as other types of debts, federal student loans enjoy no such protections. Federal student loans have no limit on the amount of time they can remain on your credit report, which means they can stay on your credit report until they are either paid off or forgiven through one of several loan forgiveness programs that the federal government has created over the years.
If you think you’ve got old debt on your credit report that should have been removed already, there is something you can do about it. Partnering with Fair Credit can help give you a way to take legal action for inaccuracies on your credit report, or other types of damaged or slandered credit. Take back your credit health with the help of Fair Credit, reach out today for more information.
The first step is to gather your credit reports from all 3 major bureaus. You can do this for free once every 12 months through the official AnnualCreditReport.com site, or you can use popular credit apps to dig into your credit report more often. Look through each report for inaccuracies, errors, typos, and old information, and make a note of each one you find.
If you’ve found items that you can dispute, like debt that’s over 7 years old, you will be able to file a dispute about it. Do this by first taking the time to gather all documents that can support your claim, like proof of payment, account statements, lending agreements, and any communication with the creditor.
Then, write a dispute letter to the credit agency describing the issue, and be sure to include copies of documentation that supports your claims. Send the letter via certified mail and with a return receipt requested to confirm they received it. They are legally obligated to investigate the issue within 30 days.
If the credit bureaus don’t remove the old debt, the original creditor may still be reporting it for some reason. Contact that creditor or collection agency directly and inform them of the inaccuracy. Request that they correct or update their records and notify the credit bureaus they report to remove the outdated debt from your credit report.
Following up is an important step in the process and one that many people forego.
After you’ve contacted both the creditor and the credit bureaus, you’ll need to follow up to ensure that the information is updated. In most cases, this can mean keeping an eye on your credit report for the next few months to make sure the information updates, but in some cases, you may need to contact the credit bureaus directly to ensure completion.
If you’ve taken the time to go through the dispute process, and even followed up periodically with the appropriate parties, only to find that your dispute was ignored or disregarded, you may have one more option.
Old debt must legally be removed unless it fits a few specific criteria, and if your debt should have been removed and hasn’t been, Fair Credit may be able to help you take legal action to get your credit fixed and recover any damages you may be owed.