How Long Does Negative Info Stay on Your Credit Report?

Cropped Hands Removing Credit Report From Envelope At Table
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The information on your credit report changes throughout your lifetime as you carry on everyday life. Certain businesses, like credit card companies and various lenders, report your activity to credit reporting agencies to be added to your credit report, but not everything stays forever.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the federal law ensures credit reports are fair and accurate.
That includes limiting the amount of time negative information can remain on your credit report.  For student loans, the credit reporting time limit is governed by the Higher Education Act.

The Credit Reporting Time Limit

Companies use your credit report information to gauge whether you're a responsible borrower. Naturally, some information is more important than others. In particular, actions from your recent history are more indicative of your credit habits than things from decades ago.

While positive information can stay on your credit report forever, provided those accounts are still open. Closed accounts may eventually drop off your credit report according to the credit reporting agencies' guidelines for keeping this information.

Fortunately, credit mistakes won't follow you forever. Most negative information can only stay on your credit report for a maximum of seven years. Certain types of negative information will stay on your credit report for longer.

Type of Information Credit Reporting Time Limit
Delinquency information, like late credit card payments and collections 7 years
Charge-offs 7 years + 180 days from the date of charge-off
Student loan default 7 years
Foreclosure 7 years
Bankruptcy Up to 10 years from the date you file
Hard inquiries 2 years

Tax liens and civil judgments are no longer included on your credit report based on changes the credit bureaus made to reporting practices.

For New York Residents Only

New York has its own Fair Credit Reporting Act that applies to consumers in the state. While much of the state law mirrors the Federal law, there's one difference - paid collections stay on your credit report for 5 years from the date paid or last date of activity.

Updating Personal Information

Each time a business reports new personal information to a credit bureau, it's simply added to your existing information. This explains why you may have several name variations and a long list of addresses on your credit report. Credit bureaus don't have any rules for removing this information unless you let them know there are errors.

Do You Have to Do Anything?

Once the credit reporting time limit has elapsed, the outdated information should automatically drop from your credit report. You don't have to do anything to prompt the credit bureau to update your credit report.

However, if there's an error with the reporting date, you will have to use the credit report dispute process to have the error corrected so that the information falls off your credit report at the correct time. Send copies of all the evidence you have supporting your claim to help prove your case.

You can complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if the credit bureau and information furnisher continue violating your rights by listing inaccurate information on your credit report. The CFPB can help facilitate a resolution or seek punitive action against companies who repeatedly violate the law.

Reporting Time Limit vs. Obligation to Pay

The expiration of the credit reporting time limit doesn't mean you no longer owe a debt. The credit reporting time limit does not define how long a creditor or collector can go after you for an unpaid bill. As long as a legitimate debt remains unpaid, the creditor can attempt to collect from you by calling, sending letters, and any other legal action.

Confusion With the Statute of Limitations

There's another time period that applies to debts, the statute of limitations. This time limit varies by state and limits the amount of time a creditor or collector can use the court to force you to pay a debt - if you can prove that the statute of limitations has passed. The statute of limitations is typically separate from the credit reporting time limit. The debt may continue to be listed on your credit report even though the statute of limitations has passed, particularly if the statute of limitations is less than seven years.

Article Sources

  1. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. "Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 - 15 U.S. Code § 1681.Congressional Findings and Statement of Purpose." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  2. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. "Higher Education Act of 1965 - 20 U.S. Code § 1080a.Reports to Consumer Reporting Agencies and Institutions of Higher Education." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  3. Experian. "When Are Closed Accounts Deleted?" Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  4. The New York State Senate. "The Fair Credit Reporting Act in New York- Section 380-J - Prohibited Information." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  5. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. "Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 - 15 U.S. Code § 1681i.Procedure in Case of Disputed Accuracy." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.

  6. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. "Time-Barred Debts." Accessed Jan. 31, 2020.