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If you’re getting ready to review your credit report, chances are your main concern is stumbling on items that are negative and could drag down your credit scores. The task sounds easy enough, but what if you’re not sure how to read your credit report?

Or, worse, what if you’re not sure what you’re even looking for in regards to negative items on a credit report?

Not to worry. Here you’ll see what kind of negative items might appear on your credit report, and how long they might stay there.

1. Bankruptcy

If you’ve declared bankruptcy in the past, you probably won’t be surprised to see this on your credit report. What might surprise you is how long the bankruptcy will stay there.

The amount of time is determined by the type of bankruptcy you filed. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for ten years — that’s from the date you filed. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, stays for seven years.

2. Charged Off Accounts

Have any financial accounts you haven’t paid on in a while? They might show up on your credit report as being charged off — that is, if your lender has officially given up on you paying and reported the account as such.

Typically, a charged off account will be sold to collections, which is the next negative item listed. Until then, a charged off account can stay on your credit report for seven years, starting from the day the account becomes delinquent.

3. Collections Accounts

If an account has been sold to collections, that means the lender has really given up on repayment. At that point, the lender no longer owns the account, and you might start getting calls and letters from the collections company.

However, it’s not unheard of for an account to go to collections and the consumer not know about it. This is just another reason it’s important to check your credit report regularly. If you do see an account in collections, it will appear on your credit report for seven years. Like the timeline on a charged off account, that date begins as soon as the account became delinquent.

You’ll be able to see collections accounts on your report as a separate account from the original account you had before it got sold off.

4. Late Payments

Think it’s not a big deal to have one late payment? Think again. Even if you’ve paid every bill on time for years, your lender can report a late payment as soon as a bill goes 30 days past due.

You can find late payments on your credit report fairly easily. Just scroll through your accounts listed and look at the payments section for each. If each month doesn’t show “okay” or “paid,” then chances are it’s late.

5. Judgments and Tax Liens — Maybe

It used to be the case that civil judgments and tax liens would show up on your credit report, and stay there for seven to 15 years. (Civil judgments, for example, could live on your credit report for seven years, as could paid tax liens. Unpaid tax liens, on the other hand, could stay on your report for 15 years.)

That said, the LA Times has reported that the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) will stop showing judgments and tax liens on your credit report unless they can definitively link that public record to you. A change created to crack down on credit reporting errors, it could have the side effect of getting rid of at least one of these negative items from some people’s credit reports.

Make Sure You’re Reviewing All Your Credit Reports

As you might already know, you can obtain your credit reports for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com. However, it’s important to understand that you’re not just looking for one credit report, you’re looking for three.

Credit reports are generated by the CRAs Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The reason you want to view your credit reports from all three is because there can be differences among them.

For one thing, lenders aren’t required to report to all three CRAs. So, one of your credit reports might show a financial account that the other two don’t, for example. And, for another thing, there could be mistakes on your credit report. Different companies generating different reports could mean that mistakes show up on one that don’t show up on the others.

If you want to do a thorough review of your credit, make sure to review all three of your credit reports every time.

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