Serious delinquency, derogatory public record or collection filed
Image: Zach Klein
What it means: This can mean your credit report includes a bankruptcy, judgment, tax lien or collection account. Bankruptcy remains on your report 10 years from the date you file (7 years for a completed Chapter 13); paid judgments can be reported for 7 years but unpaid judgments can stay on there even longer; paid tax liens are removed 7 years after being paid, but unpaid tax liens can remain on your report indefinitely; while collection accounts may be reported seven years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor leading up to the account being turned over to collections.
What you can do about it: If the information is accurate, then this is also a matter of biding your time and making sure you have as many positive credit references currently reporting as possible. (A secured card may be an option if you can’t qualify for a regular credit card.) And while paying a collection, judgment or tax lien won’t likely change this factor in the short run, it could result in the public record item being removed from your report sooner, and protect you from being sued for a debt which could result in additional judgments or collections on your credit reports. If dates are incorrectly reported or payments are not being reported — not uncommon with collection accounts — dispute them.