Negative items are supposed to be wiped off automatically from your credit report after a stipulated time-period. Usually, the negative information can stay on your reports for around 7 years. This rule is applicable for almost any kind of unpaid and delinquent accounts. Only bankruptcies can stay on your reports for a longer time, i.e. for around 10 years. However, individuals often find old debts showing up on their report even after the 7 years threshold is over. In that case, he or she will need to take up own initiative if he or she wants to cleanse off the timeworn financial mistakes from the credit report.
What can you do to remove the old debts from your credit report?
You can proceed in the following way to expunge the old debts and financial mistakes from your credit report:
- Confirm the age of the account – If you’re confident that the debt is old enough to be removed from your report, but hasn’t been done yet, go and check whether the reported date is right or not. Often, it’s found that the negative information stays on the reports, since the credit reporting companies didn’t receive the right date. Authenticating the dates are easy if legal actions like court judgments or bankruptcy is involved, since the filing date is taken into account. Corroborating dates for delinquencies can be complicated though, especially if there had been on-and-off payments against the account.
- Dig out the birth-date for sold-off accounts – If a collection agency buys an old account, it won’t count as a new debt. It doesn’t matter when the account was sold-off, the countdown for the 7 year limit on the credit report starts from the initial date when the debtor’s account was marked as delinquent. This is rather confusing and if a collection agency starts reporting an old debt as a new one, step up and dispute.
- Verify with all 3 credit reporting agencies – You’ll never know which debt account shows up in which credit report. It’s a blunder to think that all the three credit reporting agencies hold the same records. You can request a copy of your report from all 3 reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and check them thoroughly. Once you find an old account on any of the reports, which shouldn’t be there, you need to take up your own initiative to erase them as soon as possible.
- Build up your own weapon for dispute – Dispute your old debt with conviction. Search out all the old evidence, which you’ll need to establish the facts. Send a letter to the credit bureau and document your claim for old debt removal as well. The bureau will ask the concerned creditor to verify the debt. If it’s not verified, it has to be wiped off your report.
- Fire a letter for the concerned creditor too – You’ll find details of the creditor who has been reporting the debt to the credit bureau. Send them the dispute letter as well, providing all the details of your account and why you want the information to be removed from your credit report.
- Plan a strong follow-up – If the first e-mail or letter is disregarded, you need to do follow–up with the concerned authority. Mail letters to the higher authorities to make them notice you. In case the letters don’t do the trick, search out the details and call them up. Approach on formal terms and deal patiently. Save all details of correspondence.
- Seek legal guidance – If your letters or calls fail to work, you can approach the bureau and the creditors in the legal way. It’s not necessary that you have to file a lawsuit at the drop of a hat. A notice letter from an attorney may just serve the purpose. An attorney with specialized knowledge of credit and debt laws, will also be able to guide you about the FDCPA details and advise you whether a lawsuit needs to be filed.
The credit reporting time limit is defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and is often confused with the Statute of Limitations (SOL) on debt. The SOL points out the time limit until which the creditor can sue you for non-payment of debt. Negative information about a delinquent account can stay on your credit report even after the expiry of the SOL.