Credit scores are paramount to so many things in your life! Unfortunately, sometimes things happen in life and for whatever reason, we can’t pay our debts. For me, it was being a stupid 18-year-old and getting every credit card I was offered. Hey, how could I go wrong the payments were only $25 a month and I could furnish my new apartment and have an awesome wardrobe and go out all the time. Well, you guessed it I was in between jobs and drowning in debt with a whole bunch of intimidating creditors calling me for money.
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I choose the easy route and decided to ignore it all and not answer the calls and throw away the letters (I know really mature and responsible right?). Needless to say, my credit was ruined. I had one or two collections that caught up to me and was garnished from my job and it was mortifying and so embarrassing. Other than that the rest of the debts just called and sent letters.
Well down the line I got married and wanted to buy a home. So it was time to face my credit fears and check out my reports. That is when I found out about the 7-year fall off trick. It’s not so much a trick as a law that debts only have 7 years from the first date of no payment to collect and report on your credit report (laws have changed now and the number of years is only 6 now in Washington).
Here are the basics of what you need to know about this trick…
- Debts have a Statue of Limitations which is how long creditors or collectors have to sue you for the debt you owe. It varies from state to state and the type of debt. Find the list here to see what the law in your state is. It varies from 3-10 years.
- The time clock starts from the date you first became late or delinquent on payment. So check your credit score and see when it shows your first 30 days late note on your credit report to find each specific date. (This is generally just a month and year)
- If you make a payment on the debt than the clock resets to that date. So before you try to pay off your old debts (which will actually hurt your score most of the time because it brings that debt current on your credit report) check to see if time wise it makes more sense to let it fall off your report.
- If you answer the phone calls from collectors and take ownership of the debt then the clock can restart too. So be very cautious of how you handle these situations.
- These debts will usually fall off at their limit on their own but sometimes they don’t. When that happens you will have to dispute the items on each credit report that it appears to have it removed. (Read more about the easy way to dispute incorrect information on your report here)
- Just because the debt falls off your report does not mean you do not owe that money anymore but it does mean that you cannot be sued for the money owed. In short, if you choose to pay it that is your choice but no one can make you pay it anymore.
So now that you have this information you can use it to plan accordingly. Maybe this means you will wait to apply for a home loan for a few years. It might mean you need to go dispute some negative items that shouldn’t be on your report. Or you might choose to pay your recent debts off to increase your score but leave the old ones to fall off. However you use this information hopefully, it will be helpful to you in your future financial planning. Remember when it comes to credit knowledge is power, the more you know the more power you have to control your score.
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Share your plans for how you will use this information below!