Public Records and Your Credit Report
A section on your credit report is reserved for public records. These are entries that are also on file with a local, county, state, or Federal court.
After a serious delinquency, your creditor may take legal action against you. If the court finds in favor of the creditor, the action will become a matter of public record, and in some cases, the action will find it's way to your credit report.
Which Public Records Appear On Credit Reports?
Public records that can appear on your credit report include bankruptcy, judgment, or a tax lien.
In some states, foreclosure and repossession are also public records. These entries are also the worst types of entries to appear on your credit report because they show a serious delinquency.
Not all court actions are placed on your credit report. Divorce, for example, is a matter of public record, that doesn't show up on your credit report or affect your credit score. Typically only public records that stem from a debt affect your credit.
Credit Reporting Time Limit for Public Records
Most public records can remain on your credit report for seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy, however, can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. In California, tax liens can stay on your credit report up to 10 years from the date the lien was filed. Unpaid tax liens, in some cases, may stay on your credit report for up to 15 years.
Removing Public Records From Your Credit Report
If a public record is on your credit report in error, you can use the credit report dispute process to have it removed.
You also have the right to dispute the error with the court who provided the entry if the credit bureau doesn't remove the error.
Despite credit repair agencies that claim otherwise, it can be difficult and nearly impossible to remove legitimate public records from your credit report. These can almost always be verified with the court.
If a judgment was filed in error, for example, you weren't properly served, you may be able to have the judgment vacated. It's best to speak to an attorney if you believe a judgment was filed against you in error. Having the judgment vacated is like the judgment never happened, and credit bureaus can not report this type of judgment.
You may be able to have a tax lien removed from your credit report by first paying the tax lien and then requesting the revenue department - whether it's the IRS or your state revenue department - to release the lien.
While you may not be able to remove the public record from your credit report, paying it off can help you rebuild your credit score.
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.