Credit mistakes can impact your financial standing for a long time, but just how long?
There are set time frames for how long negative information can remain on your credit file. These time frames vary depending on the nature of the negative information. Negative information that is more than six years old must be removed from your file, an exception from this is certain types of bankruptcy orders.
How long they last and remain on your report:
- Bankruptcy - 6 or 15 years
- Late Payments - 6 years
- County Court Judgements - 6 years
- Debt Relief Orders - 6 years
- Defaulted Debts - 6 years
- Individual Voluntary Arrangements - 6 years
- Searches - 1 year
A bankruptcy order writes off all your debts. To qualify for bankruptcy, your debts need to outweigh your assets; assets can be your property, vehicles and saving and investments. Most lenders require borrowers to declare any past bankruptcy orders, so even if a bankruptcy order is no longer showing on your credit file, you must still declare it and lenders will be unlikely to grant you any new credit products.
A discharged bankruptcy will show on a credit file for six years. Some types of bankruptcy can, however, stay on your file for 15 years.
Late payments and defaults
Late payments can be notified to a credit agency when they are more than thirty days in default. Most late payments notified to the credit agencies are from either the credit card companies or the utility providers.
Not all utility companies report payments to credit reference agencies but the number that do is increasing. More and more lenders are starting to pass their data onto these agencies and you may soon see all your personal and household bill payments recorded on your credit file.
Open accounts stay on your report indefinitely and settled or closed accounts can remain on your credit file and available for future lenders to see for six years.
County court judgements
County court judgements (CCJs) are decisions made by a court as to the legality of a debt. Lenders can approach the courts for this type of order when you have defaulted on a payment. A judgement will contain details of the amount of the debt, the creditor and details of when the amount should be paid. If you fail to act on the court order within 30 days of receiving it the order will appear on your credit report. The creditor may also seize your property or garnish your wages.
A CCJ will stay on your credit report for six years from the day you received the judgement, regardless of any full or part payment. Payment will show and the entry will be shown as settled.
Debt relief orders
A debt relief order is a type of agreement that freezes your debts. The order only includes certain types of debts and lasts for a year. This type of order is suitable for non-homeowners and low-income individuals were the total debt is less than £20,000. On the expiry of the debt relief order, any unpaid debt is written off. A debt relief order will stay on your credit report for six years from the date the arrangement starts.
You have defaulted on an account
An account is in default when the borrower has missed payments and the account is then closed by the lender. There is no set number of missed payments that result in a default being recorded. This is down to the individual lender, but when they believe a debt can no longer be recovered they record a default.
If a debt cannot be recovered many lenders sell the account to a debt collection agency. This will show negatively on your credit file and will remain on it for a period of six years from the default date, regardless of any settlement. After this time it is removed from your report automatically even if the full amount has not been settled.
Although a default will be removed from your report after 6 years the lender may still pursue you for the debt, unless the debt is statute barred. A statute barred debt is a debt which is seen as unenforceable as the creditor has not chased it in the period allowed. If you have not been chased for payment, have not made payment or signed any acknowledgement of a debt in writing for 6 years in England and Wales and 5 years in Scotland then it could be statute barred.
Individual voluntary arrangement
An individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) is an agreement between a borrower and the creditor. It is a legally binding agreement which means an agreed amount of money is paid to an insolvency practitioner, who will then divide the payment and distribute it to the creditors. No further interest or charges may be added to the balance outstanding and the repayments can be apportioned over five years with any remaining debt written off. This type of arrangement will show on a credit file for six years from the date the arrangement starts.
What can do to repair your credit history while you wait?
The golden rule to a good credit score is to make sure all your credit accounts are paid on time and any past due accounts have been brought up-to-date. Try to reduce your credit balance where possible and keep the balances on revolving accounts low.
Avoid applying for credit if you think there is any chance you may be declined, by checking your credit score and running pre-approved applications you can get a good idea if it will be successful and this reduces the number of checks on your file. Fewer checks mean an improved score.
If any negative information has been put on your file by mistake you can contact the credit agency and ask them to remove it, this is called a notice of correction. When they receive your query they will contact the company who provided the data you are querying and let you know the outcome within 28 days. The credit agency is not legally allowed to change the information on your credit report without permission from the company who originally provided it to them.
Having a low credit score doesn’t mean you can’t get credit. There are some lenders that specialise in approving loans for borrowers with poor credit. However, those loans typically come with higher interest rates and less favourable terms.