How Long Can Negative Information Remain on Your Credit Report?

Last updated:
November 16, 2021

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 under the FCRA or other consumer protection laws.

Specific Time Limits for Reporting Negative Information on a Credit Report

Although the reporting limits may not vary much, it is important to know when the clock begins to tick. Here is a quick summary of the reporting limits for various debts:

Late Payments -- 7 Years

Late payments may remain on a credit report for seven years from the original delinquency date, which is typically the date of your first missed payment. If you fall behind on payments and then bring the account current, any new missed payments will start the seven-year clock over as to any new missed payments.

Quick Note: In many, but not all, consumer contracts (e.g., credit cards, bank loans, etc., the debt becomes delinquent thirty days after the payment was due.)

"Charged-Off" Debts -- 7 Years

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 missed payment.

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.

Collections -- 7 Years

Most collections remain on your credit report for seven years, although the time can vary somewhat with the type of debt.

Quick Note: Even when an account is marked "closed" or "transferred," the negative account history may stay on your report for seven years.

Settled Debts -- 7 Years

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 for less than the balance," although the balance should show as $0. The credit report should note settled judgments as "satisfied."

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 date of the first delinquency or seven years from the entry date of any judgment, not from the settlement date.

Judgments -- 7 Years

Currently, credit reporting agencies are not reporting most civil judgments due to recent regulatory action and lawsuits. However, in general, civil judgments may remain on your credit report for seven years from the date that the court entered the judgment.

Lawsuits -- Not Reported

A civil lawsuit should not appear on your report unless it results in judgment.

Bankruptcy -- 7 to 10 years

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, Short-Sales, and Deeds-in-Lieu -- 7 Years

Foreclosures may remain on your credit report for seven years from the date the account became delinquent.

Short Sales and Deeds-in-Lieu -- 7 Years

Like foreclosures, short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure may be reported for up to seven years from the delinquency date.

Repossessions -- 7 years

Most repossessions may remain on your credit report for seven years from the date of the first missed payment.

Student Loans -- 7 Years

Delinquencies on private student loans and most federal student loans may be reported for up to seven years.

Tax Liens -- 7 Years (If Paid)

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.

What About Positive Credit Information?

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.

What Should I Do if I Have False Information on My Credit Report?

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, 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. For more information on how the Fair Credit Reporting Act helps consumers, click here.

Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681

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Philadelphia Bankruptcy Attorney is published by Harborstone Law. Harborstone Law represents clients in bankruptcy and debt relief cases throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding Pennsylvania counties.

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Dan Mueller is a bankruptcy attorney and partner at Philadelphia-based Harborstone Law. Dan helps people and small businesses resolve serious financial and legal issue through bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy debt solutions.
Paul Midzak focuses his practice on debtor defense, dispute resolution, consumer protection law, and Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy. He also advises businesses on a variety of legal matters.
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