In many ways, a credit report is a lot like a living thing: It grows and strengthens over time, and when something bad happens, it will eventually heal. The duration of that healing process depends on the severity of the damage.
We’ll get into the nitty gritty in a minute, but as a starting point, most negative information will remain on your credit reports for seven years with the one major exception being bankruptcies, which can stay on your credit reports for ten years. (You can get a free credit report snapshot every month on Credit.com to see which items are dragging down your scores.)
Positive information can stay on indefinitely; however, most closed accounts that were paid as agreed “age off” (as it’s known in the industry) of your credit reports after 10 years. As for specific items, like a missed payment or collection account, well, let’s take a deeper dive into how long stuff stays on your credit report.
How Long Do Things Stay On Your Credit Report?
Here’s the bad news: If you make a mistake or run into financial obstacles that result in negative items on your credit report, those derogatory marks will remain there for years. The good news is they will carry less weight in credit scoring formulas as they get older.
Let’s take the dreaded credit score killer bankruptcy as an example. According to a study from FICO, a person with an average credit score of 680 could expect said score to fall around 130 to 150 points once a bankruptcy gets posted to their credit report. As we mentioned earlier, most bankruptcies can remain on credit reports for up to ten years (more on this in a bit). However, so long as that person doesn’t have any new negative information hit their credit file, they can expect to be back to that 680 in roughly five years, FICO says.
In other words (and this extends beyond bankruptcy), assuming you start instituting healthy credit habits, like making on-time loan payments and keeping low debt levels, your score won’t bear the brunt of a misstep for the entire time an item is on your credit reports.
Pro-tip: Post-bankruptcy, you’ll want to check that all the debts discharged as a result are reported that way on your credit report. And you may want to look into getting a secured credit card as a means to re-establish a good payment history. (Find more on getting a credit card after bankruptcy.)
How Long Does the Good Stuff Stay on My Credit Reports?
To reiterate what we said earlier, any positive information on your credit report can remain there indefinitely. An account that was paid as agreed will likely be removed from your credit reports 10 years after the date of last activity.
What About the Bad Stuff?
That varies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) explains the limits on reporting the different kinds of derogatory marks, though some of these limits vary by state law. Here’s how long incidents of negative credit history generally remain on consumer reports, as mandated by the FCRA.
How Long Do Late Payments Stay On Your Credit Reports?
Late payments can be reported for up to 7 years from when the delinquency occurred. Say you missed a credit card payment several years ago, and you still use that credit card. After that late payment is 7 years old, that delinquency legally cannot be included in the history of that account on your credit report. If the account containing late payment information is closed, the entire account will be removed after 7 years.
Pro-tip: If you miss a payment on accident, call your issuer to see if it’ll refrain from reporting it to the credit bureaus and/or waive the late fee. Most credit card companies will agree to do so if your payment history was stellar up until the misstep.
How Long Do Charge-Offs Stay On Your Credit Reports?
An account you did not pay as agreed, like a charged-off credit card or installment loan balance, can remain on your credit report for up to 7 years from the date the debt was charged off. (A charge off is essentially when the creditor officially writes your debt off its books as a loss.) Keep in mind that just because a creditor has written off your unpaid debt as a loss does not mean you do not still owe the debt. Your creditor will likely sell your charged-off debt to a collection agency for pennies on the dollar, which brings us to another negative item on credit reports that we’ll get to shortly.
How Long Does a Foreclosure Stay On Your Credit Reports?
A foreclosure can remain on your credit reports for 7 years from the date the foreclosure was filed. The same goes for a short sale, which could show up on your credit report as a charge-off, a settlement, a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure or “settled for less than the full amount due.” However it’s reported, a short sale is considered a derogatory event and can remain on your reports for 7 years.
How Long Do Inquiries Stay On Your Credit Reports?
There are two kinds of inquiries, and only one — hard inquiries — hurts your credit scores. A soft inquiry, like an account review by your current credit card issuer, will show up on your credit reports but is not factored into your credit scores. Other examples of soft inquiries include you requesting your own credit reports or credit scores, promotional inquiries from companies that may want to send you a credit offer and an inquiry from an insurance company (provided it’s legal in your state for credit scores to be used in determining insurance rates.)
Hard inquiries occur when you apply for credit, like a new credit card, and your potential lender is evaluating your application. A hard inquiry will slightly ding your credit score. But it won’t last too long. Inquiries only remain on your credit report for 2 years, and hard inquiries only affect your credit score for 12 months.
Pro-tip: Most credit scoring models will group inquiries for the same type of loan (like a mortgage) for around 45 days to allow borrowers to comparison-shop among lenders.
How Long Do Collections Accounts Stay on Your Credit Reports?
A collection account can remain on your credit report for 7 years plus 180 days from the date of the delinquency that immediately preceded collection activity. Let’s say you were really inconsistent with your cable bill — you missed it in January but caught up in February, only to miss it again in March and April. At that point, your cable company sends the bill to a debt collector. That collection account can remain on your credit report for 7 years plus 180 days from the date your bill was due in March.
Here’s the part a lot of people don’t like: Whether or not you paid the collection account, it can still stay on your report for that 7-year (plus 180 days) period. Some credit scoring models do not factor in collection accounts once they’re paid, but many do. Also of note, paid collections generally weigh your score down less than unpaid collections.
How Long Does Bankruptcy Stay On Your Credit Reports?
Bankruptcies show up in the public records section of credit reports. All bankruptcies may be reported for 10 years from the filing date, though discharged Chapter 13 bankruptcies are generally removed after 7 years.
How Long Does Eviction Stay On Your Credit Reports?
An eviction itself does not appear on a credit report, but trade lines related to it can. If the landlord sent your unpaid rent to a debt collector, it would appear under collection accounts, and if they sued you over the unpaid rent, it could appear as a judgment. We’ve already covered how long collection accounts stay on your credit report and we’ll get to judgments in a minute.
How Long Does a Tax Lien Stay On Your Credit Reports?
If you fail to pay your taxes, the government could file a tax lien, which shows current and future creditors that the government has a right to your property until you have paid or otherwise gotten rid of the lien. A paid tax lien can remain on your credit reports for up to 7 years from the date the government filed it, but you can speed up that timeline if you qualify for a lien withdrawal or the IRS Fresh Start program (you can learn how to apply on the IRS website).
An unpaid tax lien can remain on your credit reports indefinitely.
How Long Do Judgments Stay On Your Credit Reports?
How long a judgment remains on your credit report heavily relies on the state in which you reside. In most cases, a paid judgment will continue to show up on your credit report for 7 years from the date filed. That’s technically also true for unpaid judgments, but an unpaid judgment can be renewed, which would indefinitely extend its life on your credit reports. If the statute of limitations on judgments is longer than 7 years in your state, then that time frame is how long the judgment can remain on your credit report.
There are some exceptions to the rules above:
New York Residents
- A paid judgment can remain on your credit report for no longer than 5 years.
- A paid collection account can remain on your credit report no longer than 5 years from the date of last activity.
- A paid or released tax lien (the IRS releases the lien 30 days after the debt has been satisfied) can remain on your credit reports for 7 years from the release date or 10 years from the date filed. An unpaid or unreleased tax lien can remain on your credit reports for 10 years from the date filed.
Pro-tip: If you discover a creditor/collector is suing you for a debt, it’s best not to ignore the summons. Failure to show up in court can result in a summary judgment against you, which can lead to garnishment.
Don’t Want to Wait? What You Can Do Now
All of these timelines assume the information on your credit report is fair and accurate. If you think a collection account is listed more than once or the date is wrong, for example, you may have grounds to dispute the item and get it removed from your credit report, which can improve your credit score quickly. You can do this yourself through all three of the major credit reporting agencies and, under federal law, the credit bureau has to respond to your dispute within 30 days, generally.
If you have multiple items you want to dispute, or just don’t want to do the work, you can also hire a reputable credit repair company to help. (You can read more about how to spot a good credit repair company.)
This article has been updated. It was originally published on December 15, 2016.