how long do negative items stay on my credit report?
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How long do negative items stay on my credit report? This is the question anyone in need of credit might ask if bankruptcy, collections accounts, or late payments are dragging down their credit scores. Since it’s easy to forget about the importance of checking our credit reports regularly, by the time we notice the negative items, we might fear it’s too late.

Luckily, although negative items can sometimes take a while to drop off, their impact on your credit scores can decrease over time. Here’s why that is, and how long you can generally expect to see negative items on your credit report.

How Long Do Negative Items Stay on My Credit Report?

The list of negative items below runs the gamut from late payments all the way through bankruptcy, but there’s one negative item you won’t see here: Judgments.

Judgments, such as civil judgments and tax liens, used to show up on credit reports and have a negative effect on credit scores. The National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP), which was a settlement between the national credit reporting agencies and attorneys general of 30 states, required the following (as outlined in a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau):

“Starting July 1, 2017, public record data furnished to the NCRCs for inclusion on credit reports had to contain name, address, and Social Security Number and/or date of birth, and had to be refreshed at least every 90 days.”

According to American Banker, this change saw 96 percent of civil judgments removed from credit reports, and 50 percent of tax liens. As such, you likely won’t have to worry about civil judgements when reviewing your credit reports.

As for the negative items you will see on your credit reports if they apply to you, here’s a list of what they are and how long they’ll hang around on your reports.

Account Inquiries

If you apply for credit, something called a “hard inquiry” shows up on your credit report. Hard inquiries can affect your credit scores, though the effect is most likely minimal if you’re not frequently applying for new credit. Account inquiries hang out on your credit reports for two years, starting on the date of the inquiry.

Note, if you’ve received a notice that you’ve been “pre-approved” for credit, this will not result in a hard inquiry unless you go through with the application. Pre-approvals only generate a “soft inquiry” and don’t affect your score. The same goes for checking your credit scores, so don’t hesitate to do so as often as you please.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

There’s no doubt that filing for bankruptcy will show up on your credit reports, and can have a large impact on your credit scores. That said, how long does this filing follow you around?

If you’ve filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can expect to see this information on your credit reports for 10 years, starting from the day you filed for bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Since a Chapter 13 bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily involve a total liquidation of your assets, it doesn’t stay on your credit reports as long as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can expect to see a Chapter 13 bankruptcy on your reports for seven years, beginning on the day you file.

Charged Off Accounts

There’s a phase between late payments and collections (sometimes even simultaneous to collections) that can seriously hurt your credit scores: “Charged off” accounts.

A lender might charge off your account if you’ve not paid your bill for several consecutive months. If they charge it off, they’ll close your account and require repayment at once of the total amount due.

A charged off account could then be sent to collections, at which point your credit reports will show two negative items: The charged off account and the new collections account. Once an account is sold to collections, you no longer owe the balance to the original account owner, only the collections agency. However, selling a debt to collections doesn’t mean the charged off account has to be removed from your credit report. Instead, it should show up as closed and with a zero balance.

Charged off accounts can remain on your credit reports for seven years. The starting point of that timeline is the day your account originally went delinquent.

Collections Accounts

As mentioned above, collections accounts occur when a debt has gone unpaid, the lender has given up on it, and has sold it to a collections agency. From that point on, your repayment would need to go to the collections agency.

Collections accounts, like charged off accounts, can do serious damage to your credit scores. They also stay on your credit reports for seven years.

Late Payments

Though not as serious as charged off accounts and collections accounts, late payments can have an adverse effect on your credit scores. After all, FICO® bases a whopping 35 percent of your scores on payment history alone.

Late payments can show up on your credit reports as soon as an account is 30 days past due, and the reporting of such payments will remain for seven years (even if every payment you made afterward was on time).

The Diminishing Impact of Negative Items On Your Credit Report

the diminishing impact of negative items on your credit report
Image Credit: VantageScore®

It’s not fun to see how long negative items can stay on your credit reports. That said, there is good news: The effect each negative item has on your credit scores can lessen over time.

As you can see from the chart above, there is a drop off after which the negative items aren’t weighed as heavily on your scores. For example, the chart illustrates a drop off for bankruptcy starting around the two-year mark. That means, even though these negative items will live on your credit reports for several years, your credit scores can recover more quickly.

If you review your credit reports and your credit scores regularly, you’ll be able to see these changes yourself. This is just one more reason to manage your credit health proactively.

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