How Long Do Negative (and Positive) Items Stay on Your Credit Report?

Your credit report provides a detailed portrait of your credit history, from the time you first used credit to the current day. While your credit report also shows current accounts and their status, a good portion of it is made up of behaviors that occurred in the past. Those items – good or bad – can affect your credit score, so it’s valuable to understand how long information stays on your credit report.

Here are some of the most common pieces of information found on credit reports, and how long they’ll appear in your credit history:

  • Inquiries – Two types of inquiries can appear on your credit report. “Soft inquiries” are not factors in your credit score. Typically, they’re made when a credit card issuer wants to prescreen you for a credit card offer, a lender you already owe reviews your account, or an employer or insurer requests your credit report. You are the only one who will see them when you review your credit report. “Hard inquiries” are credit checks made as a result of you applying for credit, goods or services. They are shared with lenders, appear on your credit report and can impact your credit score. Generally, hard inquiries remain on your credit report for two years.
  • Late payments – Paying late or missing payments altogether can significantly impact your credit score. Whether the account is closed or remains open, a late payment will appear on your credit report for seven years from the time the creditor first reported the account delinquent.
  • Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, the courts allow you to negotiate a repayment plan that allows you to use your steady income to pay off all or part of your debt over time. You get to keep your property, and once you’ve made all the agreed payments your debt is discharged. Chapter 13 bankruptcies appear on your credit report for seven years.
  • Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – Also referred to as “straight bankruptcy,” Chapter 7 requires you to sell most of your possessions and assets in order to pay creditors. The remaining portion of your debt is then discharged. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for 10 years.
  • Tax liens – When you fail to pay your taxes – federal or state income, or municipal property taxes – the governing body whom you owe may put a lien against you. Unpaid tax liens appear on your credit report for 15 years; paid tax liens appear for seven years.
  • Civil judgments – If a private individual or an organization sues you for money, and you lose, you owe a debt through the court – called a “civil judgment.” Civil judgments stay on your credit report for seven years.

It’s good news that negative items will eventually disappear from your credit report – and if you improve the credit habits that led to the negative items, you can help ensure they don’t happen again. There’s even better news about positive information, however. Your good payment history on any account – whether a credit card, car loan or mortgage – will appear on your credit report for as long as the account in question does. That means even when an account is closed, the fact that it was in good standing when you closed it will be a permanent part of your credit history.