Most negative information may remain on a credit report for seven years under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act ("FCRA"). However, there are different reporting times for bankruptcy and some other types of debt. If a creditor, debt collector, or credit reporting agency continues to report such information after the time limit expires, you may have a claim for damages, punitive damages, and attorney's fees under the FCRA or other consumer protection laws. Here are the most common types of debts and the reporting limits:
Here is a quick summary of the reporting limits for various debts:
Late payments may remain on a credit report for seven years. However, the date you begin measuring the seven years depends on whether or not you brought the account completely current.
Each late payment may remain for seven years, assuming you eventually brought the account current.
Example: Mary missed payments on January 1, 2020, May 1, 2021, and August 1, 2022. However, each time she was able to catch up the next month. The late payments should drop off by January 2027, May 2028, and August 2029.
If you miss payments but never bring the account current, all negative information associated with that account (the entire negative account) should be removed seven years from the date of the first delinquency. (If you were able to bring the account current, see above.)
Example: Jake missed a payment on January 1, 2020, and continued to miss payments. Jake never caught up on his payments or brought the account current. Because he never caught up, January 1, 2020, is the first delinquency date. All negative information associated with that account, including the subsequent late payments, charge-offs, etc., must be removed by January 1, 2027.
Quick Note: The "Delinquency Date" is the date your payment became past due. In many, but not all, consumer contracts (e.g., credit cards, personal loans, etc.), the debt becomes delinquent around thirty days after your last payment. If your payments were due once per year, the delinquency date would be when you missed your annual payment.)
The "First Delinquency Date" is the date you missed your first payment but never brought the account current. In other words, you missed a payment but never caught up, even if you later made payments.
If you make a payment after the first delinquency date, all negative account information should still drop off seven years from the first delinquency date, even if you later make a payment, as long as you never bring the account current.
Example: Mary missed credit card payments on January 1, 2020 (the first delinquency date). She then missed the following six payments and is in serious default. However, she later made payments on July 1, 2020, and December 2020, but these payments did not bring the account current. All negative account information should still drop off Mary's report by January 2027, even though she made payments after the first delinquency date.
A creditor's decision to "charge off" an account does not change the date it must be removed from your credit report. Thus, charged-off accounts may be reported for seven years from the first delinquency, not from the date of the charge-off.
Quick Note: "Charge Off" is a tax-related term that does not change your liability on an account. It does not mean the creditor has forgiven the account, and it can still try to collect or sell the debt to another party.
The sale of a debt to a new owner or transferring the debt to a debt collector does not change the date the negative information should be removed. Even if the new owner or collector reports a new entry on your report, it does not change the removal date. The debt should be removed as if it were the original debt using the original delinquency date.
Quick Note: The open date of an account may change when the account is sold. Although debt buyers list the date they purchased the debt as the open date, the original first delinquency date still applies and should not change. Both the original and debt buyer accounts must drop off seven years from the date of the first missed payment that led to the delinquency, regardless of the open date.
Most collections may remain on your credit report for seven years from the first delinquency date, not from the date the collection agent took over the account. Note that if a debt must be removed, the associated collections must also be removed.
Quick Note: Even when an account is marked "closed" or "transferred," the adverse account history may stay on your report for seven years.
Neither paying a debt in full nor settling a debt for below the balance should add to the time the debt remains on a credit report. It is still seven years from the first delinquency date, not from the settlement date.
Quick Note: A debt that has been paid in full should be listed as "paid" and show a balance of $0. However, a debt settled for less than the full balance typically results in an entry of "settled" or "settled for less than the balance," although the balance should show as $0. The credit report should note settled judgments as "satisfied."
Currently, credit reporting agencies are not reporting most civil judgments due to recent regulatory actions and lawsuits. However, some civil judgments may remain on your credit report for seven years from when the court entered the judgment.
A civil lawsuit should not appear on your credit report unless it results in judgment.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for ten years from the date your bankruptcy case was filed, not from the date of discharge. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy should drop off your report seven years from the date you filed your case. Note that it does not matter if the case was completed or dismissed.
Foreclosures may remain on your credit report for seven years from the date the account became delinquent.
Like foreclosures, short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure may be reported for up to seven years from the delinquency date.
Most repossessions may remain on your credit report for seven years from the first delinquency date leading to the repossession.
As of 2023, there have been significant changes in the way credit bureaus report medical debts:
Medical debt under $500 -- Medical debts under $500 may not be reported to the credit bureaus, even if the debt is in collections.
Medical debt over $500 -- Medical debts over $500 may not be reported unless unpaid for more than one year from the date you saw the medical provider (even if the debt is in collections). If it remains unpaid for more than a year, it can be reported as long as it remains unpaid for up to seven years from the first delinquency date. However, if you pay off medical debt or reduce it to below $500, it must be removed from your credit report.
Paid-Off Medical Debt -- Paid-off medical debt must be removed from your credit report regardless of whether it has been sold or sent to collections.
Quick Note: Due to the high level of medical billing mistakes, pending CFPB regulations may make all medical debt reportable in 2024.
Delinquencies on private and federal student loans may be reported for up to seven years, like any other debt.
Most unpaid tax liens have no reporting limitation. However, paid tax liens may remain on your report for up to seven years after the debt is paid.
Quick Note: The Statute of Limitation v. Credit Reporting Regulations. It is important to note that the Statute of Limitations has nothing to do with credit reporting. This area of law confuses many consumers and even some lawyers. In Pennsylvania, we have a four-year Statute of Limitations on most debt. However, negative information can remain on your credit report well after the Statute of Limitations runs out. The Statute of Limitations does not impact your credit report.
Positive information, such as your on-time payments, can remain on your credit report indefinitely. However, some agencies may stop reporting some information for various reasons. Typically, closed accounts with a positive history may drop off after ten years, depending upon the agency.
If a creditor or debt collector has reported false information on your credit report or you find other errors in your report, you should dispute the information with the credit bureaus. If it remains on your report, you should speak to a Pennsylvania debt attorney about your options. You may have a claim against the creditor, the credit reporting agency, or both.