The length of time information stays on your credit report depends on what is being reported and whether the information is positive, neutral, or negative. The good news is, positive and neutral information can stay on indefinitely and may help improve your credit score. Most negative information will drop off your reports after seven to ten years, but in rare cases, the info will appear longer than ten years.
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates how long a negative item will remain your report. Some states, like New York and California, have additional laws that limit reporting even further for their residents. Other states may have laws that affect reporting also, but those laws will not override the FCRA, although they can put more restrictions on the length of time the credit bureaus can report negative information.
Most negative information can appear on your credit reports for seven to ten years. A few items can remain for even longer. Here are some common items and when you can expect them to drop off your reports.
When you have trouble making your credit card and loan payments on time, your creditor will report those slow and missed payments to the credit reporting agencies. Anything but an on-time payment is considered a negative item. Delinquencies can be reported for up to seven years from the due date for the last scheduled payment before the delinquency occurred. For instance, you missed the payment due July 7, 2017. That missed payment will not drop off your credit report until July 7, 2024.
When your creditor seizes your collateral to pay for your debt (property that you put up to guarantee the loan, such as a house or car), the repossession or foreclosure can stay on your credit report for seven years after your original delinquency date.
If your account was sent to a collection agency, it can be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date of the delinquency that led the account to collections.
New York Residents. A paid collection account will stay on your report for no more than five years from date of last activity.
If you stop making payments on a credit account, eventually the lender is required to remove it from its list of active accounts. The creditor does this by selling your account—usually to a collection agency or debt buyer. You’ll remain responsible for paying the debt to the new owner.
When a creditor reports a charge off, it can appear on your report for up to seven years and 180 days from the last delinquency.
Even if a credit account is included in a bankruptcy case, negative items like skipped payments and slow payments can remain on your credit record for seven years. The bankruptcy itself is subject to a different rule (see below).
Credit reporting rules for student loans are convoluted. Different rules apply to different types of student loans, but the general rule for a federally insured or federally issued loan is that negative information can be reported for seven years from several dates:
One exception is the Perkins loan, which can be reported indefinitely.
Private student loans are treated like other credit accounts. The negative information stays on the report for seven years, or seven years and 180 days if it goes to collections.
Child support delinquencies are usually reported by child support agencies or by collection agencies hired by custodial parents. Child support delinquencies can also result in judgments. Delinquencies and judgments can remain on the credit report for seven years.
Chapter 13 is a repayment plan bankruptcy. It can remain on your credit report for seven years from the date you filed the case if you completed the plan. If you did not complete the plan (the case was dismissed), it can stay for ten years from the date the case was filed.
Chapter 7 (straight or liquidation bankruptcy) will stay for ten years from the date filed.
If your creditor sues you, any judgment will stay on your credit record for seven years if you pay it off. If it remains unpaid, the judgment can appear on your reports for as long as the judgment is active, which varies by state. A typical judgment is active for ten years from the date it comes into existence. Some judgments can also be renewed before their initial term expires, thereby doubling the time they can appear on the credit report.
New York Residents. A paid judgment will drop off at five years.
If the tax lien is paid off, it will appear on your report for seven years from the date it was filed. If it isn’t paid off, the lien can stay on the report indefinitely. Some taxing authorities have programs that may change this timeline. For example, see the Internal Revenue Service’s Fresh Start Program.
California Residents. A paid or released tax lien can remain on your credit reports for seven years from the release date or ten years from the date filed. An unpaid or unreleased tax lien can stay on your report for ten years from the date filed.
If you'd like to learn what you can do to repair your credit and negotiate with your creditors, read Nolo's book Credit Repair, by Amy Loftsgordon and Cara O'Neill.