If you use credit, the creditor expects that debt to be repaid. If you make late payments on your debts, it can affect your FICO credit score, which ranges from 300 to 850. According to MyFico, 35 percent of your score measures how well you pay your bills. If you have delinquent accounts on your report, it's helpful to know how long those accounts can remain on your credit report.
The federal law that governs credit reports is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA gives rights to consumers and places certain restrictions on what credit bureaus can and cannot do when it comes to consumer credit reports. Bureaus are required to give consumers access to their reports and only include accurate data on the report. The law also limits the amount of time a negative item can appear on a consumer's credit report.
Under the FCRA, negative credit accounts remain on a report for up to seven years from the date of first delinquency. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however. Bankruptcy has different limitations. Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcy remain for up to 10 years. Dismissed and non-discharged Chapter 12 and 13 bankruptcy also remain for up to 10 years. Unpaid tax liens stay on the report for up to 10 years in California and indefinitely in all other states.
The payment of a debt does not remove it. The status of the debt will change from unpaid to paid, but it will still appear on the report. Also, keep in mind that once a debt passes the state's statue of limitation, you are no longer legally responsible for it; however, if you pay an old debt, in some states this renews the statute of limitation and the bill collector or creditor can now legally sue you for that debt to try and collect.
If you have a delinquent account on your report that is beyond the applicable FCRA statute of limitations, the FCRA gives you the right to dispute that account with the credit bureau and have it removed. To file a dispute, visit the bureau's website and fill out the online form. The bureau has up to 30 days to complete its investigation and delete the item. The bureau is required to send the results to you in writing and will include an updated copy of the report that shows the corrections that were made.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, companies that promise to remove negative items from your report could be a scam. These businesses often promise to repair your credit and improve your credit score. Still, under the FCRA, credit bureaus are not required to remove accurate items from your report that fall within the statue of limitations, even if that account is negative. Under the FCRA, you have the authority to have credit report errors corrected yourself for free.
Mack Mitzsheva is a tax lawyer, personal finance expert and the author of the forthcoming ebook, "10 Best Places to Work Online." Mitzsheva is also a social media entrepreneur with five successful sites under her belt. Always innovative, Mitzsheva is currently developing a cutting-edge budgeting app for newlyweds.