If you’re looking to remove a public record from your credit report, here’s some good news: you really only have to worry if you have a bankruptcy on your report. That’s because tax liens and judgments no longer appear on credit reports.
This guide walks you through each type of public record, what you can expect when it comes to your credit report, how a public record impacts your credit score, and how long you can expect it to stay on your report.
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a statement that has information about your credit activity and current credit situation such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.
Most people have more than one credit report. Credit reporting companies, also known as credit bureaus or consumer reporting agencies, collect and store financial data about you that is submitted to them by creditors, such as lenders, credit card companies, and other financial companies. Creditors are not required to report to every credit reporting company.
What is a Public Record?
Public record information is judgments that are published by the court that can be accessed by PACER or Public Access to Court Electronic Records.
Your credit report will only record public records that pertain to outstanding debt or delinquency, and you will always receive a notification when your name and information are part of a public record.
Depending on the type of public record, they can end up on your credit report for as long as ten years.
Public records can be created in a number of ways. The court will create a public record for bankruptcies, foreclosure, or failure to pay taxes resulting in federal tax liens.
A public record can also be created if a lawsuit names you, and the court issues a judgment for you to pay damages.
Certain kinds of public records won’t end up on your credit reports, such as divorce or probate records.
How can I remove a bankruptcy from my credit report?
Do you have a bogus bankruptcy on your report? First, you need to contact the court and ask them for a written statement that verifies you did not have a bankruptcy on file.
If the court does have a bankruptcy on file, you will need to work with them to resolve the issue. Usually you do this by providing identification. You may also need to provide other records to prove something went wrong somewhere.
First, get everything you need from the court. Then, send it with copies of your identification and, of course, your dispute letter.
Send them via certified mail to each of the major credit bureaus. It will usually take a few weeks for your credit reports to show the changes. (As long as everything you sent checks out.)
Do you have a legitimate bankruptcy on your credit report? Then it will be much more difficult to remove the bankruptcy before the required 7-year reporting period after filing a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or 10 years for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
The first thing you should do is look for any inaccuracies in the way they list your bankruptcy. It could even just be a wrong date or an incorrect dollar amount. Found something that looks like a mistake, or could be a mistake? Seize on it as an opportunity.
Send a dispute letter. Ask them to correct the mistake and remove the bankruptcy. The hope is that one of these steps will expose some kind of problem or technicality that occurred during the process. Hopefully, that will ultimately be grounds for removal.
You may be looking at 7-10 years with a tainted credit report anyway. So, why not give it shot? If it seems like too much work for such a small chance of success, you might want to consult with a bankruptcy attorney or credit repair company to assess your situation and see if they can help you better your chances.
How can I remove a civil judgment from my credit report?
Experian has a clear explanation regarding civil judgments on their website. If a judgment is accurate, they cannot remove it and it will remain on the report for at least seven years. The key thing to focus on with that explanation is the word “accurate.”
You should dispute any type of judgment. Again, try to find any grounds possible on which to argue your case.
If you dispute an unsatisfied judgment and they reject your dispute, you should do whatever you can to convert the judgment to “satisfied,” even if it means borrowing money to do so.
Unsatisfied judgments are especially damaging to your credit report. That is because they make it clear to would-be lenders that you still owe a balance on an outstanding debt.
Furthermore, unsatisfied judgments can accrue interest at unforgiving rates over time. Even if they come off your credit report seven years after filing, they can reappear on your report as a “refiled” judgment until the debt is finally paid.
Satisfied judgments are less damaging than unsatisfied judgments for obvious reasons. However, they still stay on your credit report for seven years after filing.
Vacated judgments are usually pretty easy. Dispute them and send proof you vacated them. They should come off your report usually within 30 days.
How can I remove a tax lien from my credit report?
When a state, local, or federal tax agency places a tax lien when you fail to pay your tax debt on time, they are essentially filing a legal claim against your property. Your property can include your home, your cars, your valuables, and any business interests you might have. This can even include your bank accounts and investments.
As long as they remain unpaid, tax liens can stay on your credit report indefinitely. It’s possible the credit bureaus may remove an unpaid tax lien after a period of ten years. However, there is no guarantee that will still be the case ten years from now. The best thing to do if you have an unpaid tax lien is pay it in full as soon as possible.
There are programs in place designed to help taxpayers begin the process of repairing their credit faster than they can with most other types of delinquencies. The IRS, for instance, has a program that will allow you to request a withdrawal of the public notice of a lien.
To apply for an IRS withdrawal, you need to fill out a Form 12277. That is the Application for the Withdrawal of Filed Form 668, Notice of Federal Tax Lien.
You can use the form for paid and unpaid tax liens. However, it’s important to remember that if you are successful in withdrawing an unpaid lien from public notice, you still must repay the outstanding debt that will remain on file at the courthouse.
There are certain criteria that you must agree to and/or qualify for in order to be eligible for an IRS withdrawal. It’s important to make sure you specify that you want all three credit bureaus to be notified when you complete the Form 12277.
These programs make sense for both the citizen and the tax authority. The hardline provisions related to tax liens in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, are designed to be a deterrent. They are not designed to be a punishment.
The government wants your money. Despite how it may feel when you get hit with a lien, they are not seeking to punish you to the point that it’s impossible for you to pay them anymore.
When completing the Form 12277, you will be required to provide a reason for the withdrawal request. You may want to consider telling them that the lien is hurting your credit score.
Let them know it’s causing you financial hardship due to higher interest rates on existing credit balances. That, in turn, is hindering your ability to pay future taxes.
This will incentivize them to give you a break. That is because they’ll see it as a worthwhile investment of their time. Again, it may feel like they want you to suffer. However, the reality is they just want their “fair” share of your money.
How can I remove a foreclosures from my credit report?
Like bankruptcy, a foreclosure can be difficult to remove from your credit report. If the foreclosure is accurately reported—meaning it’s not there by mistake—you can expect it to stay on your credit report for up to seven years.
If you’re facing foreclosure, it might be worth exploring the possibility of a short sale. With a short sale, you sell your house for less than what you owe, but you avoid foreclosure.
In some cases, the bank will accept a short sale, as they usually prefer receiving at least some of their money rather than nothing at all. Plus, a short sale means the home transfers to a new owner rather than ending up on the bank’s books.
If you choose to pursue a short sale, however, you should negotiate with the bank to have the short sale reported as “paid” rather than as a short sale. This might not always be possible, but it’s worth trying.
How long do public records stay on your credit report?
If you’ve filed bankruptcy, you can expect a Chapter 7 to stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. Generally, a Chapter 13 will stay on your credit report for seven years.
Because you may need time to complete your payment plan, however, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy could remain on your report for up to 10 years from the date you initially filed.
What happens if you can’t get a public record removed?
Fortunately, the NCAP has made it so you really only need to focus on how a bankruptcy impacts your credit score. On the other hand, a bankruptcy is easily the most damaging hit your credit score can take.
But don’t panic. If you’ve filed bankruptcy, there are still ways to repair and rebuild your credit.
For example, you can commit yourself to paying your bills on time every month, establish a positive credit history by taking out a credit builder loan or applying for a secured credit card, or work with a credit repair company to see if they can help.Keep in mind that your payment history makes up 35 percent of your credit score, so make it a priority to always stay current on your monthly financial obligations.
Improving Your Credit After a Public Record
While public records severely damage your credit score, especially when the item is first placed on your credit report, it’s not the end of the world. As the record gets older, it hurts your credit score less. Paying all your other accounts on time and keeping your debt levels low can also minimize the impact on your credit score.
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