The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the federal law that spells, among other things, out how long negative information can remain on your credit report. The credit reporting time limit is seven years for most negative information. Certain types of negative information will stay on your credit report for longer than that.
- Delinquency information like late credit card payments and collections can be reported for seven years from the date of the delinquency.
- Charge-offs, seven years + 180 days from the date reported to the credit bureau, usually this is simply seven years from the date of the charge off.
- Student loan defaults, seven years (defined by the Higher Education Act).
- Foreclosures, seven years.
- Lawsuits or judgments, seven years from the date of filing or the state statute of limitations, whichever is longer.
- Bankruptcy, up to 10 years from the date you file.
- Paid tax liens, seven years from the date paid or until you request the IRS to have it removed.
- Unpaid tax liens, indefinitely.
For California Residents
- Paid or released tax liens remain on your credit report for 7 years from the date released or 10 years from the date filed.
- Unpaid tax liens stay on your credit report for 10 years from the date filed.
For New York Residents
- Paid judgments stay on your credit report for 5 years from the date filed.
- Paid collections stay on your credit report for 5 years from the date paid or last date of activity.
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Once the credit reporting time limit has elapsed, the outdated information should automatically drop from your credit report.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.
Reporting Time Limit vs. Obligation to Pay
Just because the credit reporting time limit expires 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. However, lawsuit judgements can continue to be reported through the state statute of limitations if that time period of more than seven years.