Federal law (US Code Title 15, §1681c) controls the behavior of credit reporting agencies (CRAs). The specific law is called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Under FCRA §605 (a) and (b), an account in collection will appear on a consumer’s credit report for up to 7½ years. To determine when an account will be removed by the CRAs (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian and others), add 7 years to the date of first delinquency. The date of first delinquency is shown in credit reports. Subsequent activity, such as resolving the debt or one debt collector selling the debt to another collector, is irrelevant to the 7-year rule.
Some debts have a reporting period longer than 7 years, including:
- Tax liens: 10 years if unpaid, or 7 years from the payment date
- Bankruptcy: 10 years from the date of the final order
- Perkins student loans: Until paid in full (20 U.S.C. §1087cc(c)(3))
- Direct and FFEL loans: 7 years from default or rehabilitation date (20 U.S.C. §1080a(f)(1) and 20 U.S.C. §1087e(a)(1))
- Judgments: 7 years or the debtor’s state statute of limitations on judgments, whichever is longer
The FCRA 7-year rule is separate from state statutes of limitations for debt issues. Learn the lifespan of a judgment in your state at the Bills.com Statute of Limitations Laws by State page.
The start of the seven-year period begins at the date of first delinquency, or if no payments are made, when the first payment was due. Review your credit report carefully to make certain the dates of first delinquency are reported correctly. Unscrupulous collection agents reset the date of first delinquency to stretch out how long a derogatory account appears on consumer’s credit report. This is illegal under the FCRA.
Just because a debt does not appear on a credit report does not mean the statute of limitations for the debt has passed. The opposite is also true: The passing of a state statute of limitations on a debt does not mean the debt may not appear on a credit report. The federal FCRA and state statutes of limitations are separate and independent of each other.
Whether a debt appears on a credit report does not establish legal liability for the debt. The opposite is also true: You may have legal liability for a debt not reported to the credit reporting agencies. Credit reports are not legal records of every debt a person owes.
Inaccurate Information on a Credit Report
The law stating that derogatory items must be removed from credit reports after seven years is designed to help consumers recover from past credit mistakes and help them rebuild their credit rating. If you find charged-off accounts appearing on your credit report after seven years, you may want to dispute the incorrect listings with the credit bureaus.
If you find any inaccurate information on a credit report, dispute the credit report listing with the bureau in question. See the Federal Trade Commission document FTC Facts for Consumers: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors for more information.
The seven-year rule only applies to derogatory items, not to accounts that you are keeping current, or which you closed in good standing. As long as an account is not considered derogatory, it can remain on your credit report indefinitely. In fact, even accounts that are no longer reporting to the credit bureaus may continue to appear on your report as long as the account is not a derogatory item. It is common to see positive items that are more than 20 years old appearing on a credit report.
Even though the judgment is paid, it should now be reporting as a satisfied judgment showing a $0 outstanding balance. The credit reporting agencies should update your credit reports based on information available from your county courts, but if you find that your credit report is still reporting an outstanding judgment balance, you may need to take steps to ensure that the judgment is reported accurately on your credit profile.
I encourage you to obtain a copy of your credit reports from each of the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — to determine if the judgment status has been updated on your credit file. If you find that this judgment is still reflecting an outstanding balance on your credit, you should first contact the court clerk of the court which entered the judgment to verify that the creditor has filed a “satisfaction of judgment” with the court to show that the judgment has been paid. Assuming that the creditor filed the satisfaction, you should obtain a copy of the satisfaction document from the court and send copies of it to the three credit bureaus asking them to update your file to reflect the updated account status.
If the creditor has not filed the satisfaction with the court, you should contact the creditor’s attorney (most likely the law firm that filed the original lawsuit against you) to request that it notify the court that this judgment has been paid off. Once the creditor files the satisfaction of judgment with the court, you should be able to obtain a copy of the satisfaction and send it to the credit reporting agencies to request that the status of the account be updated on your credit reports. In the unlikely event that the creditor’s attorney is not willing to file the required satisfaction documents with the court, you or your attorney should consider filing a motion with the court requesting that the judgment be updated as being paid and satisfied. However, most creditors will willingly notify the court once the judgment has been paid, as the creditor may be liable for your costs and other possible penalties if it does not notify the court once the judgment has been paid.
To learn more about credit, credit reports, and credit scoring, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com Credit Help page.
I wish you the best of luck in resolving this judgment, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.