Here is a question that myself and the other credit experts at HOPE4USA get all the time: "How long will this account remain on my credit report?" As you may know, there is a legal statute of limitations regarding how long information is allowed to to stay on your credit reports. However, the time frame is different for individual types of accounts. Here is a great cheat sheet for you to use when you are trying to determine whether a negative account has been on your report too long.

Collection Accounts:  A collection can remain on your credit for 7  years from the date of default. The date of default is generally the date that the account became 180 days past due. Please note, the 7 year time clock begins when the ORIGINAL account becomes 180 days delinquent, not when the account is sold to a collection agency. If a collection agency is illegally attempting to re-age your account or if the agency is trying to manipulate the date of initial default on your account then you have the right to dispute the account under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Charge-Off Accounts: If an account on your credit reports has been charged off then the account can remain on your credit for 7 years from the charge-off date.

Bankruptcies:  Chapters 7, 11, and some chapter 13 bankruptcies (only those which have not yet been discharged or have been dismissed) are allowed to remain on your report for 10 years from the date they were initially filed. Discharged chapter 13 bankruptcies are allowed to remain on your report for 7 years from the discharge date, but that date is not allowed to exceed 10 years from the original filing date. Some credit bureaus may have policies to remove discharged chapter 13 bankruptcies 7 years from the filing date, however, that is not necessarily a requirement. 

Repossessions: A repossession should be removed from your report 7 years from the date the auto loan initially went into default.

Judgments: A judgment is allowed to remain on your report for 7 years from the date it was filed.

Tax Liens: Unpaid tax liens are allowed to remain on your credit report permanently. However, paid and released tax liens (federal, city, state, and county) should be removed from your credit reports 7 years from the date they are released. (NOTE: If you have paid a federal tax lien you may be able to have the tax lien withdrawn and removed from your report early.)

Inquiries: When someone looks at a copy of your credit report an "inquiry" is placed on your credit report. Certain types of inquiries may negatively affect your credit scores (i.e. inquiries that occur when you apply for financing for a loan, credit card, car, mortgage, etc.). These types of inquiries are allowed to remain on your report for 2 years. When you look at your own credit report this is a "soft" inquiry. It does not hurt your scores at all and it can remain on your credit report for 6 months. Finally, if your credit report was pulled for a pre-screened offer then this type of inquiry will not hurt your scores and it should be removed from your report after 6 months. Remember, you can always opt out of having your credit pulled for pre-screened offers at

You have rights! The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) exists to protect you if accounts are being reported on your credit report past the legal statute of limitations. Pull your credit report at least 1-2 times every year and if you find errors or violations you can dispute them or have a professional to dispute them for you. Remember, you may want to think twice before you dispute your accounts online as you may be agreeing to terms and conditions which do not work in your favor.

Michelle Black is an author, a 12+ year credit expert with HOPE4USA, the credit blogger at, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and  a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE Facebook page by clicking here.