How Long Can a Debt Be Reported to Credit Bureaus?

APR 09, 2014

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Unpaid debts can put a dent in your credit score that can last for years. The type of negative item on your credit report whether a late payment, bankruptcy or civil judgment determines exactly how long the negative information stays on your credit report.

Seven Years of Bad Luck?

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the length of time that negative information can remain on your credit report is limited. There are exceptions for such things as bankruptcies and unpaid tax liens, both of which can stay on your Experian credit report up to 10 years. The clock starts running from the date the creditor first reports the debt as delinquent. Items that are neutral or positive can remain on your credit report indefinitely.

Delinquency Date Doesn’t Change

The delinquency date is part of what determines when the debt comes off the credit report. The creditor may update the status of the account for example, to report the debt as written off or turned over to a collection agency but the change in status doesn’t change the timeline for removal. If you know you have old debts, even if they’ve since been paid, you may want to check your credit report and review it to verify the delinquency date for each negative item.

Going to Collections

If a creditor turns your debt over to a collections agency, the matter may end up appearing on your credit report as a closed account with the original creditor, or as an active account at the collections agency. The collections account will be listed as having been opened on the date the agency obtained your debt. Naturally, this will be later than the original delinquency date

Not Necessarily Out of the Woods

Be aware that just because an old debt drops off your credit report, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re no longer responsible for paying the debt. Each state has its own law that determines how long a creditor or collections agency can continue to try to collect on a debt.

About the Author
Cam Merritt has been a professional writer and editor since 1992, specializing in articles about personal finance and law. He has contributed to USA Today and the Better Homes and Gardens family of magazines and websites. Merritt has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Drake University.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from, Inc., an Experian company.     © 2014, Inc.   All rights reserved.