The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) amendment to the FCRA of 2003, is the federal legislation that governs the credit reporting industry. Statutes of limitation for reporting time limits are provided by this legislation. Knowing how these time limits work is essential to any effective credit repair effort.
In Plain English
Let’s try to put some of this jargon into plain English. The term “statute of limitation” in the case of your credit reports, simply refers to the maximum amount of time that a derogatory item can continue to be reported. When the statute of limitation passes for any negative item on your credit report, that item should vanish. There are an amazing number of violations of these time limits that may appear on your report. Some violations are intentional as in the case of many of the collection accounts that we see, and others are due to a simple failure of the highly complex credit reporting system. A careful credit repair effort can eliminate these violations.
An Interesting Point
In a moment we will review statutes of limitation for the most common types of derogatory information. But you might find it interesting to know that the Federal Trade Commission permits the credit bureaus to delete information at any time at their discretion. There is no requirement that the bureaus wait until the passing of a statute of limitation date to stop reporting. There are many cases where you would be well advised to request deletion even if the Statute of limitation is imminent.
Collections and Charge Offs
Collections and charge offs must cease reporting seven years plus 180 days from the initial delinquency that led to the collection status or to the charge off. The initial delinquency is the date of the first 30 day late status that led to the collection or charge off. This period of time cannot be reset by any subsequent payment or for any other reason. The clock starts with the original creditor. Collectors such as assignees, attorneys, or collection agencies must abide by the same original statue of limitation expiration date. Neither the original creditor nor collectors can extend these reporting limits. Any attempt to do so is illegal. Unfortunately this law is often ignored. Effective credit repair efforts require a very exacting examination of these dates.
Chapter 7 bankruptcies can report for 10 years from the discharge date. Chapter 13 bankruptcies can report for 7 years from the filing date. But be aware that if the Chapter 13 is not completed the reporting limit is extended to 10 years. I mentioned above that the credit bureaus are allowed to delete information from your report prior to the expiration of statute of limitation. Any credit repair effort should take this flexibility into consideration. Bankruptcy is a case where we highly recommend requesting removal. If you are five or more years past discharge your request may be honored.
Paid tax liens can report for 7 years from the date of payment. Unpaid tax liens can report for as long as they are in effect. Please be aware that most unpaid tax liens are released by the IRS after 10 years. The IRS will usually provide a lien release upon request after the 10 year limit has past. When you provide the release to the credit bureaus they will cease reporting. There are cases that allow the IRS to re-file. Please speak to your CPA or tax attorney for clarification before contacting the IRS!
Generally, unpaid judgments will cease reporting 7 years after the filing date. However, unpaid judgments are a case where state statute of limitation will overrule federal statute. Your state may allow unpaid judgments to report for longer than 7 years. State statutes of limitation are easily found on the internet. Paid judgments may be reported for 7 years from the filing date. No state statutes may overrule federal limits for paid judgments.
Gone but Not Gone
Derogatory information that falls off of your credit report due to an expiration of the statutory time limit does not get deleted. This obsolescent information should not continue to appear on your credit report, but it is not gone. If you apply for a loan for over $150,000, life insurance with a death benefit over $150,000, or a job that pays over $75,000, your potential lender, insurer, or employer has the right to view your prior history. This fact adds some additional support to the case for credit report vigilance. If you are attempting credit repair and have erroneous info on your report it is best to dispute it now. Waiting for the statue of limitation to pass may not produce the clean result that you want. Disputed items that get deleted are literally removed from your credit report.