Remove Old Item From Credit Report

How do you go about getting items removed that are over the 7-year grace period?

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Daniel Cohen

My answer here explains the rules for credit reports and how long certain items can appear on a report, and the rules for removing old items from a credit report. 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. We describe how to do this below. We begin with a brief look at the federal rules that control the credit bureaus.

Credit Report Rules at a Glance

Federal law (US Code Title 15, §1681c) controls the behavior of credit reporting agencies (CRAs). The specific federal law is 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 filing (15 U.S.C. §1681c)
  • 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 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.

Quick Tip Get a no-cost, no obligation analysis of your debt options from a pre-screened debt relief provider.

How Debt Collectors Break These Rules

Some creditors, especially debt purchasing firms, will report inaccurate charge-off dates to extend the amount of time an old account appears on your credit report. If you find any inaccurate information, you should 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 7-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.

Quick Tip: The steps described here should correct false information appearing in a credit report. However, if the consumer credit reporting agency does not delete or correct the false information, see the method of verification article describing the next steps you can take to fix your credit report.

If an account is active and still open, it will remain on your credit report (including the entire history of positive payment history). No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. There is no charge for this.

How to Correct Errors on a Credit Report

Following up with the credit bureaus might be a time consuming proposition, depending on how many items you have that need to be removed. To get these items removed from your credit report you have two options:

1. Pay for the services of a credit repair firm. There are many firms that specialize in the area of credit repair. Be careful about the firm that you choose and make sure that it is a reputable firm. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to learn about the performance of a particular company. You need to do proper research on the firm that you will eventually do business with. By law, credit repair organizations must give you a copy of the Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law before you sign a contract. They also must give you a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations. Read these documents before you sign anything. The law contains specific protections for you. For example, a credit repair company cannot:

  • Make false claims about their services
  • Charge you until they have completed the promised services
  • Perform any services until they have your signature on a written contract, and
  • Have completed a three-day waiting period.

Your contract must specify:

  • The payment terms for services, including their total cost
  • A detailed description of the services to be performed
  • How long it will take to achieve the results
  • Any guarantees they offer
  • The company's name and business address

2. Do it yourself. The Federal Trade Commission provides extensive credit-related information and self help resources. You will first need to obtain a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time.

Check your reports for the action items. Keep in mind all the bureaus now have provisions to dispute items online, but in most cases you will need a copy of the respective report and other information to do so. Once you are ready, you can contact each of the three bureaus at the contact information provided below:

Equifax Experian TransUnion
800-685-1111 888-397-3742 800-916-8800
File a credit dispute online at Equifax File a credit dispute online at Experian File a credit dispute online at TransUnion

Tell the consumer reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like:

FTC Sample Letter of Deletion

Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.


Your name

Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)

Once you resolve the issue with the credit bureaus, tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct, that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate, the information provider may not report it again.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.



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Comments (26)

Gee B.
Chicago, IL  |  January 25, 2013
My situation is different than not making timely payments. I moved out of my apartment after 8 years and left it "clean." A month later I get a bill for over $1,200 for "more than usual wear & tear" like the stove top was worn, the bath vanity was worn, the carpet had to be replaced, and the apartment had to be painted! How do I dispute what is normal wear & tear vs. them telling me it had to be replaced?
January 25, 2013
Talk to a tenants' rights organization in your area to learn the exact definition your state's courts use when deciding when something is wear-and-tear vs. damage. Assuming you did not paint the apartment during your occupancy, I would call repainting an apartment after 8 years of use a normal wear and tear item. Carpet doesn't last forever, either, and that's another iffy item to charge a tenant after 8 years. The other items you mentioned — the stove top and the vanity — could be damage or wear-and-tear depending how old they were and the amount of wear or the extent of damage. As I mentioned at the start of my reply, you need to learn how your state courts define wear and tear.
Tammy S.
Kent Lakes, NY  |  November 14, 2012
i have an auto loan listed on my account as negative/failed to pay. the car this loan is for was in an accident and totaled. It was a leased car and GAP insurance covered the remainder of the cars total. There was a few past due payments that were later paid. This still remains on my report after being paid back in 2008. Is there anyway to get this removed.
November 19, 2012
Is the derogatory information in your credit report accurate or inaccurate? If it is inaccurate, then file a dispute with each of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies that are publishing the incorrect information.

If the derogatory information is accurate, then it will be removed 7 years after the date of first delinquency. See the article describing the Fair Credit Reporting Act to learn more about the rules consumer credit reporting agencies must follow.
Traci R.
Lynchburg, VA  |  August 06, 2012
How do i find out when my 180 days after charge of date is?? I have something that says opened in 2004 but there is no other date or information. I would like to know when to expect my stuff to roll off.
August 06, 2012
In your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, look for the date of first delinquency on the account. Then add 7½ years to that date. Seven and a half years is when most, but not all derogatories must be removed from a credit report. See the section "Credit Report Rules at a Glance" above for a list of the exceptions to the 7½-year rule.
Vanessa S.
San Antonio, TX  |  April 10, 2012
So, I was in a car accident in Oct 2008. I have four bills that went to collections because they were not immediately paid by the auto insurance company. Although these accounts are now paid in full, on my report, they still show negative at one point and my credit report has a low score because of them. Is there any way this information can be removed or corrected so the accounts can show positively on my report? This was something way out of my control.
April 10, 2012
File a dispute with each of the credit reporting agencies that are publishing this derogatory.
Vanessa S.
San Antonio, TX  |  April 11, 2012
I have filed disputes already. but because they are now paid, they say there is nothing they can do. My report shows "paid after went to collection"
Brad A.
Houston, TX  |  March 30, 2012
This is a tough one. Montana law. A close friend was pulled over and charged with a traffic violation in 2003. She was planning a move to another state shortly after that and completely forgot about the fine. In 2004 the court transferred the fine of $670 to a credit collection company. Last week she went down to renew her license and found out that it had been suspended and a hold was put on her being able to get another. She contacted the court who informed her about the collection. She called the collection (which was once again started in 2004) and they told her it had been collecting interest since then and the bill is now $1,968. According to the court she has to pay this in full before they will release the hold. At no time was she contacted about this debt and it is 2012. Does she have a leg to stand on if getting this removed?
March 30, 2012
Open a negotiation with the collection agent to resolve the debt. Note I used the words "negotiate" and "resolve." Start with two facts: It is likely but not certain the state or county sold the debt to the collection agent for less than the face value of $670, or whatever the amount was at the time of the assignment. Second, the interest and mystery fees the collection agent added are not based on any cost incurred by anyone, but are meant to be punitive and encouragements for people to pay sooner than later when even more mystery charges would be added. My point is, there is about $1,200 of that fee open to negotiation.

As I mentioned, call the collection agent and offer it $500 to resolve the debt. If the collection agent does not budge and takes an all or nothing position, then consult with a lawyer in Montana to discuss your options.
Doreen B.
Fairfax, VA  |  March 28, 2012
I just got married and we are trying to buy a house. He got divorced and he had a repo in 2007 he fought for her to have to debt of the repo but ended up with the debt what can I do to try to get this off of his report. He was also in the hospital and couldnt' afford to pay the medical bills so what can we do or do we have to wait the 7.5 years for it to drop off his credit?
March 28, 2012
What is your spouse's credit score today? You mentioned the 2007 repossession. Was there a deficiency balance related to that repossession? If so, when was that resolved? You also mentioned unresolved medical bills. What was the approximate date of first delinquency on the medical bills? The answers to my questions will help me answer your questions.

As you mentioned, most derogatory marks on credit reports are removed 7½ years after the date of first delinquency.
Doreen B.
Fairfax, VA  |  March 28, 2012
I'm not to sure on the medical bills the report I got was from a mortgage broker and it just states last activity. for medical it was 09/2008 and another one was 09/2010. The repo was not resolved because his ex wife I belive put the car in a junk yard because he moved so they were not able to sell it. It states on the report that the 180 days reported was 04/2008.
Chino Hills, CA  |  January 05, 2012
I have an account that on 2/03/2008 I was in an auto accident. This account was in investigations with an attorney. I have pulled all three CBR's it is listed on only 2 of them. It reports: open 60days last payment 2/03/08 . It has been over 3 years since the last payment and I'm not sure if this can be disputed as being incorrect.
January 05, 2012
Is the reported information accurate? If so, you may be wasting your time disputing the entry. If the account is not yours, or if the account is paid and should not be listed as delinquent, or if the date of first delinquency is incorrect, then by all means dispute the information.
Lisa M.
New York, NY  |  September 28, 2011
I have positive credit card information that are 12-15 years old in my credit report. Will my credit score decrease if I delete them? My credit score is in the low 600s.
September 29, 2011
First, removing strong or positive accounts from a consumer's credit file will almost certainly decrease a consumer's credit score. Second, removing the oldest account from a credit file will reset the length of the credit history to the next-oldest account, which may have a significant negative impact on a credit score.

I do not see any advantage to removing positive history from a credit file.
Melissa T.
Chatham, MA  |  September 22, 2011
There are negative items on my credit report that are over 7.5 years old. These are not taxes or bankruptcies. How do I get them removed?
September 23, 2011
Dispute the derogatories that are older than 7½ years on your credit report.
May 14, 2010
Accurate derogatory entries may stay on a credit report for 7½ years, as you suggested. Some consumers will dispute derogatory items on their credit report. If a creditor does not respond to a disputed item, the credit reporting agency is obligated to remove the item from the consumer's file.
Phenix City, AL  |  December 04, 2013
I co-signed for a car in 2003, and the debt was purchased in 10/2006. Oct. 2013 would make 7 years. How do I get this removed from my credit report? Do I write a letter to the debt holder or directly to the 3 Credit Bureaus?
December 05, 2013
The FCRA 7-year clock starts at the date of first delinquency, not when "the debt was purchased," as you suggest. When did the co-signer start missing his or her payments? Add 7 years to that date, and that is when the FCRA requires this derogatory to be removed from your credit reports.

If the 7-year clock has expired on this derogatory, send disputes to each of the consumer credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — that publish the derogatory.
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