How to Remove Negative Items from your Credit Report

Bad credit can come back to haunt you. A history of late payments or unpaid debts can make it hard to buy a home, rent an apartment, or get a car loan. In fact, bad credit might even mean higher bills: bill providers are legally allowed to charge you more for having poor credit.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. With a little homework and effort, you can nip your bad credit in the bud. The first step? Addressing the negative items on your report.

Step 1: Review Your Credit Report

Man using his computer
Before anything, you want to obtain a copy of your credit report. The good news is, it’s free once per year, and it’s as easy as navigating to and requesting it. You’re allowed one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. It’s important to keep an eye on all three because sometimes there are discrepancies between them. For instance, your Experian credit report might have an error while your TransUnion and Equifax reports are perfectly accurate.

Once you get your copy, you’ll find an entire section dedicated to any and all negative items. These are the accounts dragging your credit down: outstanding credit card debt or an old utility bill you never paid, for example. These negative items are the accounts we want to fix.

According to Experian, here’s how long six common negative items stay on your report if you aren’t able to remove them:

  • Collection accounts: seven years after the first delinquency
  • Late payments: seven years from the first late payment, even if you’ve caught up and the account is current or closed
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy: seven years
  • Chapter 7 bankruptcy: 10 years
  • Paid tax liens: seven years
  • Unpaid tax liens: 10 years

Rod Griffin, Director of Public Education at Experian, explains that these negative items have less of an impact over time:

It’s prudent to pay the money you owe, but if you’re struggling to make ends meet, you should consider how long you have until your own negative items drop off your report. It’s not ideal, but you may be able to live with them on your report for the time being, provided you don’t need to use your credit in that time frame.

Step 2: Look for Errors and Dispute Them

Reading with a magnifying glass
Once you’ve reviewed your potentially negative items, first make sure there aren’t any mistakes. There are a handful of different types of errors you should look for on your report:

  • Accounts that don’t belong to you
  • Negative items that have expired but haven’t yet dropped off the report
  • Personal information errors
  • A paid off account that’s still listed as unpaid

If you do find an error, you’ll first want to notify the creditor. The Federal Trade Commission makes the process really easy with this sample letter. Fill in the blanks, then send the letter to the creditor, along with any documentation supporting your dispute. They’re obligated to investigate the items in question, usually within 30 days. If they agree that there’s an error, it’s their job to notify all three credit bureaus so they can fix your report. You can also request to have them send notifications to any agency that’s pulled your report within the past six months.

If they don’t think there’s an error, you can at least ask for a notification of dispute to be included on future reports. You can also dispute with the bureaus directly, and they make it fairly easy. Experian, for example, lets you directly dispute those errors using their online form.

“If you have a recent copy of your personal report you can simply enter the report number and begin disputing information,” Griffin says. “If you do not have a copy of your personal report, you can provide the information requested and Experian will provide a copy instantly online at no cost. Each account entry has a ‘dispute’ button with it. If you wish to dispute information simply click the button and follow the instructions.”

After getting your letter, the bureaus will then contact the creditor themselves to investigate, a process Griffin says usually takes Experian 10 to 14 business days. But generally, getting an error totally removed from your report can take anywhere from a month to a few months. Of course, you should check your report after the fact to make sure the item has been removed or updated.

What if the account is already in collections?

Erasing mistakes
In another scenario, let’s say you’ve successfully disputed an item with the creditor, but they’ve already sent your info to collections. A debt collection company keeps calling you, asking you to pay money you don’t owe. If this happens, you can actually file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Step 3: Try Removing Negative Items that Aren’t Errors

On the other hand, let’s say you’ve made some mistakes. You couldn’t afford to pay your credit card bill. Your student loan payments are sometimes late. Of course, the ultimate solution is to improve your financial habits; that much is obvious. In the meantime, though, you still have options for dealing with the negative items on your report.

For late payments, you can draft a “goodwill letter,” which is sometimes referred to as a “goodwill adjustment.” If you generally have a good history with a creditor, they’re often willing to forgive a late payment here and there and update your credit report accordingly. You’ll want to contact the creditor directly, either with a phone call or a letter. Either way, your request should include:

  • A brief rundown of your history with the creditor
  • A brief explanation of the financial hardship that led to your late payment
  • A request to remove the negative mark from your credit report

Of course, if you have a long history of late payments, that’s another story. If you have the money, you might be able to negotiate a payment plan with them that includes paying a large lump sum amount in exchange for removing your negative marks. Griffin recommends calling your creditor to discuss your options, and reminds us that the removal of negative, accurate information is unlikely.

“The best thing to do is to catch up on the late payments, bring the accounts current and continue to make your payments on time. The late payments will eventually be deleted in accordance with the time frames specified in the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you are unable to do so, discuss options with your creditors. They may be able to work with you to change the account payment due date so that you are able to make the payments on time.”

Beware of Debt Settlement or Consolidation

In general, be very cautious when pursuing debt settlement or debt consolidation as there are risks involved with both options. Some of these may not even have any contact with your original creditor. Worst case scenario: you pay the company, never hear from them again, and the negative item is still on your report. If you’re considering going with one of these companies, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Fees and rigid contracts: Most of the time, they’ll charge you a fee for settling. Worse, if you miss a payment as part of your settlement or consolidation plan, you could lose all of your money—none of it will go toward paying off your debt.
  • Taxes: When you settle for a lower amount, that means a portion of your past debt is forgiven. And anytime your debt is forgiven, you’ll owe taxes on the amount forgiven if it’s over $600.
  • Longer terms: You can actually pay more over time with debt consolidation. All it does is stretch out the length of your debt. Your monthly payments are smaller, but at the expense of paying more interest over time.

There’s also an important distinction to be made here: debt settlement and consolidation are not the same as credit counseling. The former options, along with the credit repair industry, promise to simply erase your delinquencies–and usually at quite a cost–while the latter helps you build better habits to improve your credit over time.

“There are many excellent credit counseling services that can help you budget more effectively and who can work with your lenders to assist with debt repayment as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Griffin says. “Be very careful about working with any organization that promises to remove accurate but negative information from your credit report, especially if they ask for payment up front.”

Credit Repair Tactics

While improving your credit score takes time, there are a few legit tips and tricks that can help you along the way.

Again, as Griffin suggests, you can catch up on missed payments by working out a hardship payment plan with your creditors. Simply give them a call and ask what programs are available. You might be surprised at their willingness to work with you–creditors would rather you pay as much as you can than nothing at all.

Also, credit utilization makes up nearly a third of your credit score, so it helps to focus on this area. In basic terms, your credit utilization is the amount of credit you have available to you versus how much of it you’re actually using. The lower your credit utilization, the better. This means if you open up a new line of credit, it should boost your score, assuming you don’t actually use that credit (and after you account for the inquiry and the lowering of your average age of accounts). Problem is, when your credit isn’t great, it’s hard to open up new lines of credit. There are a few ways to get around it, though.

A secured credit card might be an option. These require you to deposit a large sum of money, which acts as collateral if you miss a payment.

If you have a parent or spouse with solid credit, you might consider asking them to add you as an authorized user to their credit card. Provided they haven’t racked up a bunch of debt on that card, this gives you a new line of credit.

You also may want to avoid closing accounts that you’ve had open for a long time. Not only would this reduce your credit utilization, it also affects your credit history, which makes up a big part of your score, too.

Improve Your Credit Habits

In general, the best way to improve your credit is to work on your financial habits. There aren’t many reliable “fixes” for credit mistakes, so it’s best not to make them at all. Even if the outlook isn’t bright, you can take control by making a list of your negative items, and then deciding on the best course of action, one item at a time. It may not be the fastest method, but it’s effective.

Kristin Wong writes and makes videos about all things money. You can find her writing at Lifehacker,, and on her own personal finance blog, Brokepedia.

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146 responses to “How to Remove Negative Items from your Credit Report”

  • Shelly LeRoy

    I have 6 negative items on my credit report. 1 is a small amount I could pay today. The other 5 are from the same collection agency. Would it be advisable to pay off each amount individually or should I call them & see if they will consolidate them. I’ve had no contact with this collection agency up to this point. I’m concerned they will try to make me agree to a payment plan in order to consolidate & I don’t want to get stuck with another monthly bill I have to pay that I can’t really afford. I’d rather pay what I can, when I can. So do I just start with the smaller amounts and work on paying them off, or do I take my chances& consolidate? Would this make a difference on my credit report? Would they remove all but 1 bad report if I consolidated, or would it even make a difference?

  • Crystal

    I have one negative collection on my credit report. Will paying it off help improve my credit?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Crystal! Without knowing the details, it’s hard to give a definitive answer. Even if you have an initial dip, it’s likely your score will bounce back! I hope that helps!

  • I lived in an apartment for 5 years and I was never told I had to pay a water bill. I renewed my lease 5 times and no one said anything. They have it on my credit what is the likelihood of me getting that removed

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Mo! You could try filing a goodwill letter explaining your situation to try to get that cleaned up!

  • I have been in my house for approx 13 years and along the way had some late payments here and there towards it. My mortgage company has changed multiple times and the last one from years ago still shows late payments which is stopping me from getting a car loan but most importantly from getting house ref. How can I get these removed off the company no longer has an interest in my payments.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Kenny! I’d suggest sending a goodwill letter, but if these late payments were actually late there’s not much you can do. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  • I pulled my credit report and saw some negative credit late payments reported from GMAC mortgage. Since they are no longer in business, how can I dispute the reported late payments and how can I get them removed?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Joe. If you can prove that these are misreported, I’d suggest reaching out to the bureaus directly with that evidence!

  • Christina

    I have a question. I have a current car loan that I am on time and on point every month. I have a older car loan that I now have a judgment on me. what is the best way to deal with this to inprove my credit

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Christina! You should work to the get your older car loan settled immediately so that you can get your credit scores to healthy. Hope that helps!

  • Candice

    Hi, I received a new credit card November 2015 in order to build my credit. I made two payments December and January 2016. By February 2016 my job filed a chapter 7 bankruptcy. I was unemployed for almost a year. I called the card company and tried to explain. But,they weren’t much help. The amount went into collections. It marked as charged off. I called the
    Debt collectors and made arrangements to pay the bill. Now my credit score in negative affected because of a late payment made 1yr and 3months ago. What can I do to remove it?

  • Shelly

    I have a negative auto loan on my credit report. I paid it off but, because of my illness my payments was late for a year along with 11 other negatives. I ordered a copy of my credit reports, contacted creditors, paid them off and 9 out of 11 removed it from my CR. By doing this my scores have increased within 7 months from 520 to 708 which has also allowed me to purchase a brand new home!!!!
    If I remove the negative auto loan which, is my oldest account. Will this negatively affect my score or will it help? My scores are currently TU 713 EF 698!!!!

  • Alfred dewitt

    I been locked up in prison for 8 years I got out check my credit every thang bad is still on it why and can I fix it

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Alfred! If there are negative items are you credit report that have passed the appropriate time windows, you should reach out to the credit agencies to have them removed! Hope that helps!

  • Hi! I have enrolled in a debt management program to pay off my credit accounts over the next 4 years. From what they have told me, and everything I have been able to find online, this will ultimately significantly increase my credit score once the program is over, even though the accounts have been closed. I recently checked my credit report and it is showing all the closed accounts in the “adverse action” section of my credit report and that these will remain on my report for 7 years. It seems to me like this is going to hurt my credit score instead of helping it. Can you tell me if the credit bureaus might be willing to remove these from my credit after the accounts are paid in full in 4 years, since it’s not really a settlement or consolidation? Thanks!

  • On my credit report I have my student loans that have inconsistent payment history from 2015 the loan was sold around a lot. Which caused me to pay more than the orginal debt. I have since paid them off completely. But they come up on my report as closed but the payment history is sketchy. Causing creditors to question me. I have paid off the loans over a year ago and want to know how can I get them to remove this from my credit report.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Rosa! If there are negative items that are false, you should challenge them with the original creditor. If they’re true, you can try sending in a goodwill letter, but there’s not guarantee that will work. Hope that helps!

  • Hi so I have not made my car payment in over 7 years as of the 11th of March this year 2018 it says on my credit report that it’s closed and basically in bad favor of me. I understand that my question is can I ever get the title for the car I went to the dmv and they said I need to contact the bank I went through and ask them for a certified paper saying they no longer have interest in the car to drop the lean against it. but if I do that does that give them the right to reopen the closed account or will I never get the title to the car?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Leann! Since property laws are state-specific, I’d suggest reaching out to your local Bar association for guidance. Good luck!

  • Karan wall

    Hi I taken finance out on a car which was cancelled within 1 month, this has showed as a default on my credit history, am trying to get a Mortgage and now the lender want this removed from my credit history completey, the finance company have told me it should of been removed as I never actually purchased the car am going around in circles can this be removed completely from my credit score?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Karan!
      I can’t really comment on the way credit scores are calculated outside of the US. Have you tried filing an error report with the credit agency?

  • Calvin Morgan


    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Calvin! Have you tried following the steps in this blog post, including asking the credit agencies to remove erroneous reports?

  • I had a credit card that got closed due to late payments, but it never went to collections. Is there a way to get it removed from my account now that it is paid off?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Devyn!You can always write a letter to the credit agencies asking them to fix an error on your credit report!

  • gregorykendrick

    trying to get these 3 items off my credit report,verison,and credit acceptance,and a one from T-Mobile.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Gregory! Are they errors? If so, you can submit a letter asking to have them removed!

  • I have the account in Edgas store, the put my name on credit bureau, but I’m finishing paid this account on April this year. Until now they didn’t take my name. I’m sure I don’t have any money for this store, I’m done. What can I do now?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Sofia! I’m sorry you’re in this situation. I’d suggest reaching out to one of our experienced credit counselors for a free credit counseling session so they can help you build a plan to suit your needs.

  • Alex Hicks

    I had a 60.00 bad debt with ATT and it was reported to the Credit Bureau back in April 2017, I paid the bill and deputed the report, Transunion removed the thr report in June 2017 immediately after I deputed the report.
    I have tried on serval accessions, as much as 4 time to get Equifax to remove the no avail. I have sent them a copy of the paid bill and they would alway say that they have contacted the reporting agent.also the would me to contact them as well and I have to no avail also. My question now is what other approach or measures can I take to get this removed from my credit reort.
    Alex Hicks

  • Esther

    I have a question i owe three loan agencies money they already sent it to collection though so my question is do i cantact the loan agencies and make payment arragments and if i pay them will it be removed from my credit report

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Esther! It depends on how you pay them. If you settle it will reflect differently than if you pay in full. Late payments will likely continue to be on your report. Your best bet is to schedule a FREE call with one of our credit counselors who can help you understand the nuances of your different options.

  • Why are negative things still on my report even when these have been paid off and accounts closed.
    Yet if you owe it shows straight away, surely the credit companies have to put this right

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Andy! Without more details, I can’t really help you. A paid-off account that is in collections will still be on your credit report and what its called will depend on how the account was settled (paid in full, settled, etc.). I suggest you schedule a FREE call with one of our credit counselors to help you make a plan.

  • Have an account that was opened in Oct 1992 and Closed in Oct 2010. My mother passed away in June of 2008 and unfortunately I became depressed and shut myself down from the world. I just quit paying my obligations until I finally sought help from a professional I started making payments on my accounts again. All was going good but, because I wasn’t paying the full amounts I was getting non stop phone calls on this account. I finally snapped at the caller because they made a comment that just totally out of line. They told me that just because my mother died doesn’t mean you don’t owe your bills. I explained what happened to me personally(shouldn’t have had to tell my personal business) and they caller said to bad when can I expect the full payment on your account. At that moment I told them to consider the bill paid in full that they should never be talking to a client that way. My question is how long does it stay on my file as not paid. They immediately wrote it off but it is still on my report. I understand it to be on for 7 years but, don’t know the start date to start counting the 7 years. Is it from the 1st time I was late or is it the last payment date I made?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Dawn! It’s usually 7 years from when the account went into default! I hope that helps!

  • How long does a collection /charge off stay on your report. It is saying account is 5 yrs 8 months but, it is a purchased account from another lender who already wrote it off. How can a Collection Agency keep trying to get you to pay if it is already written off?

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Dawn! Are they actively trying to get you to pay or just reporting the amount in collections no your credit report?

  • I found two things on my credit report from a pawn shop. I’ve never been to this pawn shop. What can I do it says it’s gone to collections.

    • Emilie Burke

      Hi Jynn! If it’s a mistake, you can reach out to the credit reporting agencies directly!

  • Regina mercado

    Can you please take off and clear SANTIAGO Mercado reports thank you and Credit card also thank you very much

  • My parents home is in my and my brothers name. When I got married in 07 I thought the debt was being taken care of. I guess they paid a year or so. I didn’t find out until 2014 that there was a tax lein for several tax years. I spoke to my Dad who went to the tax accessors office. He set up a payment plan and I thought that was fine. Well it kept being reported on my credit. Score would increase then plummet and when I would check it was a derogatory mark. I went ahead last year and paid it off as it was for 3 different tax years. I pay my bills timely but this one was just not knowing and just thinking my brother was taking care of this and under the assumption when my Dad made the payment arrangement it was no longer being reported as delinquent.

  • Hi why would a company continue showing you as current on the account even though I haven’t been able to make payments on it for 2 years? It’s on my credit report. Is this some kind of tactic?

    • Thomas Bright

      Not a tactic I’m aware of, but potentially a form of goodwill. Or it may be that they have a generous policy re: reporting negative information. I take it this isn’t a traditional credit card, but some other type of company instead?

  • I have two issues I didn’t see addressed in any of these posts. The first is I paid off one of my credit cards in full but there was a $2.00 interest charge on my paperless statement the following month. I was unaware that I owed the $2.00 because it went in my junk email box. It was more than 90 days before the company sent me a letter. I called them and discovered they were charging me $35.00 late fees for a $2.00 interest charge! I called them and they reversed the charges and I paid the $2.00 and forgot about it. Well, they reported it to the credit bureaus and it’s affecting my credit. My second issue is with Macy’s. I had closed my Macy’s charge account but reopened at the counter when one of the sales people offered me a great discount if I used my Macy’s card. When the bill came, I used my bill payer through my bank to pay the bill in full. Unbeknownst to me, they issued me a new card with a new account number. So when I received another bill with a late charge, I called and we figured it all out. They moved the money from the closed account to the open one and took the late charge off. But, they reported it as a late payment to the credit bureaus. Same thing happened to me with my Sears account (you think I would learn). Can I call these creditors directly to rectify the situation or should I write a letter? I still can’t believe they did this.

    • Thomas Bright

      Lee, that sounds really frustrating–sorry to hear it! I would think that contacting them directly should work if you can explain this clearly and have a paper trail to back it up. If not, then a more formal dispute may be in order. Best of luck. We’d love to hear how it goes.

  • Elaine

    If an account is charged off can that be remove from my credit ? And how I go about that?

  • Michael

    I was wondering if a company can report late payments and also report bad remarks for the same item on a credit report? It sounds to me that they are double dipping here. Any response is greatly appreciated thanks.

    • Thomas Bright

      Michael, my understanding is that they sort of build on each other. Not really in a double dipping way, but in a logical way. For instance, you can’t become “delinquent” without first having “late payments.” A real issue of double dipping can occur once your account is given to collections, though. Then the same debt can resurface in multiple line items on your report.

  • Patrice T

    What company can help me increase my credit score by removing negatives on my report?

  • Rona Jane Canizares

    How to dispute my derogatory record . The collection agency charge me $ 1800 . But the hospital don’t send me a bill after I go to there clinic 3 months after the hospital close. And the doctor give me a wrong finding . Because we go to another dr they told me the firs doctor check up you is wrong because your life is in danger then after they send me to emergency an remove gallbladder .

  • Part of my student loans were collected through the state garnishing my income tax and the other remaining balance I did a settlement which reports on my credit now has two negative reports. What can I do to get them off my report?

  • Stephen Sundstrom

    There is no way to improve your credit besides to pay your bills on time, stop carrying debt on credit cards and to wait for the credit police to slowly change their opinion of you. So quit worrying about it!

    • Thomas Bright

      Ha! That’s definitely a good simplified way to look at it. And words to live by–if you never have an issue then just keep chugging along and pay your bills in full. But mistakes do happen, and it makes sense that everyone should be equipped with the knowledge of how to resolve issues in a way that’s most fair to them and aligns with their best interests.

    • I couldn’t agree more. Be aggressive. My credit score jumped 50 points in the past year b/c of this. Hella proud.

  • Hi, I have a debt on my account that is not mine and should not have been reported. I called the original creditor and they agree they sent me to collections by mistake. What do I need to do for this to come off my credit report. The debt has been sold to another agency and they refuse to give me anything. Should I have the creditor write me a letter? If so, what should they say? Thanks a million, Sarah

  • Richard

    Can a credit union loan be removed from your credit report even if it’s closed?

  • Allison

    Hi. I have students loans that were consolidated and paid off through the consolidation, I now have a completely different loan servicer (to which I am paying off the previous amounts owed) and all consolidated loans show a zero balance, however, the negative rating and missed payments are still being reported. My questions are: if the loans were paid through consolidation, why are they still showing as negative with late payments that are well over 7 years old at this point? and Can I dispute these with the original creditor and/or ask for removal? Can I dispute them with the CRAs?
    Thanks for your time.

    • blazeaglory

      I would love to know the answer to this as well because my FICO just dropped over 100 points because of 2 student loans that dropped out of collections because I made good on payments with a new servicer. Once the new servicer notified Equifax of the closing of the old accounts all of the 60/90/120 lates seems to have ” double dipped” and have tagged my FICO again causing it to drop over 100 points!

      I have had ZERO negative items in the last 7 years other than 3to4 inquiries and I carry no balances on credit cards and pay them off every month. Last month my Equifax was 676 now its 572. It shows that yesterday the new student loan company reported the old loans as “closed” and thats when the drop occurred. There are no other items.

      • Emilie Burke

        Hi Blaze! Since you’ve got a lot of nuances to your case, I’d suggest speaking to a free credit counselor. That being said, you can always reach out to the credit reporting agencies to report erroneous activity!

  • Elizabeth

    Hi. In March 2010 I broke an apartment lease and was unable to pay March’s payment. Currently the account from a creditor shows that I’m past due and original date is August 3rd 2010. When should this account be removed from my credit?
    Also it shows up as an open account, is this accurate?
    Thank you!

  • Hi, please I need your advice. I bought on November furniture from a store, a part of the debt I paid with cash and for 2000usd I opened An online account with this store. I suppose to started paying on this January, 35usd per month but that wasn’t. The first month they charged me 89usd and they explained why and I paid. This month the first days I paid the amount that I supposed to paid but today I check in my checkings account that this store made an online withdrawal of 1888 from my account. Now I’m in negative numbers because I did not have all that money in my account. Could you advice me, I am so upset but I don’t know how to do. Thanks

  • Hi,
    I recently started building my credit. (2months ago) My social is fairly new (3 years)….I had a 644 cs and all of a sudden it dropped to 540 cs..because of a debt from 3/2012 when I broke a lease on an apartment due to separation from my then partner. It seems the debt went to collections and is now reported on my credit report. Honestly, I didn’t even remember I had it. My question is: considering the statute of limitation in Texas is 4 years, would it make a difference if I paid off the debt now or just wait it out for it to fall off my credit report?….or, should I seek to settle? Pay in full?..the company has never contacted me or reached out. I just found out about it because it was on my credit report. I would love to buy a house in the near future, and I need this to disapear..

  • Nicole

    So I had made a mistake as to moving in with somebody in 2012. Immediately I moved out 3 months after living with her. We didn’t get along at all. And I moved back home. I’ve been getting letters 1-2 a year saying I owe 3000+ because she moved out and didn’t pay the last 2 months of rent. Unfortunately my name was on the lease and I didn’t get it taken off.
    However oddly, it’s not on my credit report.
    What should I do??
    Should I A- just pay it, suck it up even though I shouldn’t HAVE to she should?
    B-contact the apartment company
    C-ignore it
    Or d- take this to court.
    I feel I shouldnt have to pay the full price when both of our names were on the lease.

    • 1.Do you still have the rental agreement paperwork? If not, ask the apartment complex for a copy. Review it.

      2. Go online to review your state’s statute of limitations for monies owed.

      I hope this helps. Don’t go to an attorney right away-see if you can receive some advice pro-bono and gather evidence.

      Good luck!

  • Hi I had a couple medical bills ( $200 range ) go to collections, would I contact the hospital or the collections people about resolving the negative marks on my credit ? What are the odds they will take them off if I pay in full upon calling ?

    • Thomas Bright


      I’d say it’s usually unlikely, but still worth trying. Just be sure that any arrangement you reach is in writing.

  • Mike P.

    So i have a credit line with a retailer and i thought they had signed me up for auto payments, turns out the original salesman told me wrong. They never had an automated system. Making me delinquent multiple times. And when I would get a notice I would pay in full and keep the account up to date.
    I’m just going to pay off the full balance and close the credit line. Should I talk to them first and see if paying them off would help them take off the credit reports, and follow up with a goodwill letter. Or keep the line open, file a goodwill letter and just keep up with monthly payments?

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Mike,

      Paying it off in full is a great place to start. Keeping the account open isn’t a bad idea, though, so that it can help your credit utilization and age of accounts. You could keep it open but never use it. And yes, it may be a good idea to contact them directly and plead your case about having been misinformed about the auto-pay. Without anything in writing, I’m not sure how far that will get you, but it’s worth a shot. You could try via phone a few times, and then also write a letter to the same effect.

  • Melissa C

    Hi. Since Aug 2016 I have been working with a credit repair firm to help with 9 negatives. So far 6 have been removed. As of today transunion is clear, experian has 1 left, Equifax has 2. Am applying for affordable senior rentals, and don’t know what to put in the box which asks “what is your credit score?” Should I just be truthful and say contact the firm? Help. If it helps, all negative items were hospital and medical bills from 2010 and a separate surgery in 2014. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Thomas Bright

      Melissa, you could gauge your credit score by using a free resource like Credit Karma.

  • Anastasia

    I had a loan from sallie Mae back in 2012 that was intercepted by the irs Too pay off, one or two of my loans. The loan is still on my report for my school education . Where do I start.

    • Thomas Bright

      I’m not sure I follow–they took the loan funds?

      • Kimberly

        They are saying the IRS offset those loans most likely from income taxs to pay the student loans. They did me the same way but on my credit report they just say closed been that way for 2 years.


    • Thomas Bright

      Was your account transferred to the new company? Typical that has a neutral impact on your credit, but you might start by writing to the bureaus to clarify.

  • Julie Robinson

    I have 1 payday loan on my credit report and because it’s not 12mths old 3mths off the lender won’t lend although it’s settled can I get this removed

  • Tammie

    I recently had a deferred payment. The company send me papers to sign. And I was to fax them back by a certain date of did and I have my receipt. However the company said they never received the fax. Now they placed a late payment on my credit how do I get this removed?.

    • Thomas Bright

      You may have done this already, but I would contact them and explain exactly what happened. Offer to re-send them the faxed documents immediately, and explain that you’d like it removed from your credit. If you have a receipt that it went through before, and they still aren’t working with you–you should try the dispute method mentioned in this article and also consider contacting the CFPB.

  • Benoit

    I had a collection debt that I paid off last October but the line still appear on my credit history as “paid in settlement”
    Since then , I had two loans denied because of this line.
    I want to write a goodwill letter to remove the negative item.should I write the letter to Experian Or to the collection ?

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Benoit, that letter would go to the original creditor (the collector). Over time, that mark should have less and less of an impact.

  • Lynn McGuire

    I had a medical bill removed from my credit report after I disputed it. Now a completely different collection agency is sending me a bill. I disputed the entire balance, and for proof they sent me a copy of a bill with my name and old address. No signature or other proof that it’s mine. Can they do that? Is that enough proof that I’m responsible for the bill?

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Lynn,

      Be sure to check out all the CFPB has written on this. You’ll want to get all the correspondence between you and the collector in writing. In addition to what they sent, if looks like there is also some information about the creditor (address, etc.) that they need to provide in verifying the debt. Filing a complaint with the CFPB may be a good next step if you still don’t believe you owe the debt and don’t receive adequate verification.

  • Lindsey S

    I have 6 student loan accounts, 3 of which are visible in my credit report. I am a teacher in a low-income school and all of my loans are eligible for forgiveness following my 5th year (I have 1.5 years left). I recently forgot to pay one of them for a period of about 6 months. When I realized, I paid the balance in full, but my credit score has dropped about 120 points. I had a good (over 700) credit score prior to this event. Is there anything I can do?

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Lindsey, great to hear that you are near the forgiveness period, but sorry of course to hear about the payment issue! Since you didn’t default (and rehabilitation won’t apply), your best bet might be to take this up with the lender directly, perhaps through a goodwill letter. Otherwise, that negative mark will hurt you less and less over time.

  • Stacey

    Recently my husband’s credit report was hit with a delinquent charge of over $1500 dating back to an account closed in 2011 from the local utility company. It showed up in 2016 out of the blue. Is there a way to get the account removed? Are they allowed to put that on his credit report after 5 years of not reporting it? The charge never even went to collections and as far as I know the utility company has never tried to collect it from him either. We believe the charge was from prior tenants living in his house at the time.

    • Thomas Bright

      Stacey, it’s hard to comment on this without more information, and the situation might even warrant legal advice. I would start with some level-headed discussion with the utility company to see what they can work out. Especially if they haven’t been sending communication about this bill previously, they may be open to helping you solve the problem here. Best of luck!

  • Guillermo

    I was unemployed for 6 months. I had no late payments before this hard time and was at a 712 credit score. I fell down to 570 in these 6 months. All accounts are balanced now and was wondering if I could have those months removed since it was due to hardship that I failed to perform payments.

    • Thomas Bright

      Guillermo, it’s honestly unlikely, but your best bet would be to discuss this with each individual creditor, explain the hardship, and potentially write a goodwill letter.

  • Denise Curry

    How to get the addresses to the three credit bureaus for a dispute letter.

  • Lawrence

    I own a buisiness and had a buisiness card which I personally guaranteed. I made late payments on the card and out of the blue it appeared on my personal credit report as an individual debt. Do I have good grounds for a dispute?

  • Trying to a buy a house in 2017 for under 100k and I have two negative marks on my credit report with roughly a 620 CS. I have two different marks on my Credit Report, one from my original student loan of $1000 in 2012, which was originally with Sallie Mae and they transferred it to Navient when I defaulted, which is now paid off as of 2015, with Navient. The defaulted payments are still hanging on the report from 2012 though. What should my next step be with that? Should I send a goodwill letter to Navient to campaign to remove this or will that do nothing?

    Then, in 2015, I failed to pay a credit card off due to complications with a settlement with the bank and they sold the debt to a creditor ($500 + $300 late fees). Now, its not set to come off my report until 2020. Should I send a letter of goodwill to the Cach LCC, who owns my debt or try to settle with them? They also sent me a letter, trying to settle for $300ish. Thanks in advance and happy new year!

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Ian,

      Great questions. Buying a house may not be out of reach even with your current standing, but I agree that increasing your score will help and get you better terms. Be sure to look at other ways to improve your score beyond just these two marks (lowering your utilization is often low hanging fruit). But to answer your question, sure you can send goodwill letters. They may not work (the odds are definitely against you), but it can’t hurt. If you settle something else, be sure to get those terms in writing. Also, read our article about whether settling a debt in collections is a good move.

  • I have not made a second mortgage payment for 7 1/2 years, first mortgage up to date. Second mortgage sold to nationstar recently and they are hitting my credit and it dropped from 715 to 578 can they do this legally? Just cause they bought the lone. Does the clock start over again? Or is this a tactic by them that is illegal?

    • Thomas Bright

      Bret, this will depend on some specifics. I suggest you talk directly to the lender and/or a housing counselor who can help with this.

  • I’m showing a negative report on two auto loans that were both closed due to trade-in. Is a goodwill letter an option?

  • Tonessia Jones

    I payed off some debt. How would I get this negative information removed off my credit report?

  • Derrick

    I have several student loans that are paid out of 1 monthly payment. If I am late on my monthly payment the credit report reflects that I am late on multiple obligations rather than the 1 monthly payment. Is there anyway to have the delinquent payment reflect as a sole late payment rather than say 15? -Thanks

    • Thomas Bright

      That’s a great question, but to my knowledge there isn’t a way to do this unless you un-bundled the payments, which would be something to take up with your servicer.

  • charlotte l

    i have a tax lien paid off over a year ago how do I go about getting it removed ?

  • Olivia Winters

    because of medical reason’s I had to file a bankruptcy that was discharged in March 2016. TransUnion 644, Equifax 647 and Experian 571. Experian has included the discharges and the late fees. Would it be prudent to submit a “goodwill” letter requesting that Experian to remove the late payments?

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Olivia,

      You could try that, but you’d want to direct the letter to the creditor rather than the bureau.

  • Hello. I have an old account roughly 3 years ago that’s paid but I had 3 late payments over the course of the loan that shows on my credit report. The company after speaking with them and being in good standing and paying the loan off have agreed to close the account with the credit bureau. Which would erase the account completely from my report. There’s only an available credit of $6 showing anyhow. Would closing the account having it complety erased do better for my report having the 3 late payments, or because its credit history is the account better off staying on my report even with the 3 late payments?

    • Thomas Bright


      Good question. The account is contributing to your age of accounts, but do you have older accounts than that one, or several near the same age? If so, it may not be helping all that much. My gut is that the negative marks are hurting you much more than the account is helping you in a general way.

  • Sabrima

    After I pay off a negative account on my credit report, can I then dispute it and it be forced to be removed since it technically will no longer be owed ir does it have to remain there regardless?

    • Thomas Bright

      It will likely remain there if it’s legitimate, but there really is no harm in trying to have it removed via a goodwill letter or other tactic.

  • I had a delinquent school loan with the state of Michigan. I had a repayment plan that I was on in which I would have to pay $50/month for 9 months then I could be transferred to some other type of repayment plan. Long story short, I fell short of the 9 months by 1 month and they sent it back into delinquency. There was $2500 remaining. They did end up getting the remaining balance paid by garnishing my 2015 taxes, however the account is showing as an unpaid chargeoff on my credit report. Is this correct or should I be contacting them to have the error fixed?

    • Thomas Bright

      I’m not sure…it sounds like there was a judgment as well. My question is does the report show paid judgment and a charge off or just the latter?

  • i have paid all bills off. I have no loans of any kind. the last two years i have been trying to get my life back. i have PTSD and was able to make payments on time but never did in fact had a hard time functioning. now everyone is paid in full i have bad credit. it was a 527 then a 628 and now a 607. i tried getting a loan in hopes to build credit. along with a few card as well. that gave me 5 hard checks. i did get approved for two cards. i am putting 25% on them and paying them off over the corse of 3 months then starting aging. i also have 7 derogatory remarks. i have call each of them. they all say i must wait 7 years before they can be removed. so 2018 the first will start to be removed and all will be removed by 2023. each credit company the big 3 have different things on them and none mach up. its my debt and most show i paid them off but dates are worn and one may show its open or the other may have nothing on it at all. is there away to have them removed sooner and how can i get a small loan to build credit if they want give me a loan until i build credit? i want to be normal aging and this is something i need to get to where i was before the military. also would like to say support your local military not all scars can be seen. 22 vets a day kill their self from PTSD. i only say this just incase someone needs to talk. i tried killing my self a few times a few years ago. thanks to friends and someone being there at the right time i am still here today. every day is a struggle but it doesn’t have to be alone.

    any help on what i need to do for my credit would help thanks

  • rashieda

    Hi I have been under administration have payed it up have received letter from the court that all accounts have been payed up ask all the credit bureaus for my credit report the administration order don’t reflect there on but I was declined for a home loan

  • Courtney

    I received a letter from a collection agency. Their title includes “recover solutions” it is still a debt collector who bought the debt from another collector they have agreed to resolve my account for less with payments plans or offering a lump sum. Would it be wise to pay the entire thing or take the lesser payment?

  • Fernando

    I had a medical bill that went to collection but I’m disputing it. long story short when I wen to get stitches in my had they said to come back I wasn’t going to get charge and they charged me and went to collection.I have know idea how to dispute or getting in contact with the original creditor/doctor since they sold my account. Where should I begin? I called the hospital and they said its not them charging me its the doctor. Any help will be appreciated.

    Also how long does it take to reflect positive once you pay off an account in collection.

  • C. Loch

    I had a couple of accounts in collections, and have them all paid off, and they are listed as account paid. Can i get those off my credit report, niw that they are paid off?? And also had a bankruptcy 3 yrs ago, any chance of that getting removed as well?

    • Thomas Bright

      There are stipulations for how long they remain, but there is good news here. Newer scoring models are giving you credit for paying off collections accounts, so those won’t hurt your score as much as they used to.

  • I just received letters back from expedían and equifax. This is my first dispute. And none of my four accounts were removed. The accounts have been more than 6 years ago. Any tips?

    • Thomas Bright


      I wish I could be more help, but it’s hard to say without knowing more about your specifics and the details of the negative marks. You could try chatting with our counselors, who could take a closer look.

  • Ms Johnson

    I was told by a creditor that once I paid bill. Which was late, on my credit report it would state current and my late payment would be removed as well. The late payment has not been removed and I’ve spoken with a supervisor and he stated they can’t remove the late payment. I was lied to and I would like to know what steps can I take to seek justice.

    • Thomas Bright

      Sorry to hear about your difficulties here. I’m not sure how much recourse you will have if the payment was later than 30 days. Your best bet might be to continue calling the company, talking to various supervisors, and explaining your situation. Though it very well may be the case that they can’t remove it. For a more formal appeal, you could also write a goodwill letter (there’s a link to how to do that in this article). From there, you might contact the CFPB to make an appeal, but again the success of this will depend on the specifics and additional details of this situation.

  • Rebecca clark

    I had a catalogue a few years back, a customer ordered quite a few xmas presents from it. She paid for a bit but then hasn’t paid any at all now so im paying out of my money. She’s now homeless and im stuck with the debt. Any ideas what i can do?

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Rebecca,
      Sorry to hear about this. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about catalogues, but my first thought is to contact the catalogue company to see what they can do. It may be that they have their own debt collections protocol for these situations. Do you have original contracts and agreements from when you started working with them? I’d start there, but depending on the amount of debt, it might also be worth consulting a legal opinion here. Best of luck!

  • Tomm Kurts

    I paid my mortgage on July 30th and the mortgage company reported it as late to the big 3 bureaus.

    This is the first time this has happened. I’ve had 2 other mortgage companies in the past that never did this. Is this inaccurate reporting?


    • Thomas Bright


      I wish I could help more, but I wouldn’t be able to tell if this is accurate or not. Start by contacting the mortgage servicer, and then proceed with disputing the error if it is one. Best of luck!

  • I finished a debt relief program,how long does it take for the charge offs to come off my reports.Is there anything I can do to speed up the process and taking the negative marks off?

    • Thomas Bright

      They can stay for a total of seven years. Keep in mind that those accounts can also still be sold to collection agencies.

      • If the account is sold to a collection agency…does that restart the clock? Do you have to wait another 7 years for the negative account to fall off?

        • Thomas Bright

          No, it shouldn’t, but other things can restart the clock, such as making a payment.

  • Hi there I struggled to pay a few or my retail accounts but paid all my debt last year September it was handed over to the collection agencies I saw two accounts on my credit report with negative balances is there a way that can be removed and if yes how do I do it

    • Thomas Bright

      Hi Jesme,

      You could go through the dispute process as laid out in the article, but it depends on what exactly you are disputing. If you don;t believe the account ever should have gone to collections, you can call the original creditor to figure out what happened. One good thing, though, is that new credit scoring models are rewarding paid off collections account. So, if you can’t remove it but did pay it off, the damage should be much more limited than it would have been a few years ago.

  • Cassandra

    What does “Based on your dispute request, TransUnion has included new information on your TransUnion credit report.” Mean?

    • Thomas Bright

      It sounds like you submitted a dispute, which caused them to alter or add information to your credit report. Since this is TransUnion specifically, I recommend that you visit and get your free TransUnion report, if you haven’t done so already.