Public records on your credit reports contain information about debt-related legal matters. They can be harmful to your credit scores and remain on your reports for many years.
You might file for bankruptcy if you need relief from mounting debt, though there are many considerations to make before doing this. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the most common type of bankruptcy, and Chapter 13 is also common.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy:
- Doesn’t require you to repay directly as it is a liquidation of the assets, meaning that once you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy your assets or property will be sold and distributed among your creditors.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy:
- Requires you to repay at least some of the money you borrowed, as it is a reorganization to allow for repayment.
For most types of bankruptcy, the information will remain on your credit reports for up to ten years from the date of date of entry of order of relief or the date of adjudication. In some cases it can be reported for longer than ten years. For as long as a bankruptcy appears on your credit report, it can negatively impact your score. Read more about how a bankruptcy can affect your credit here.
A foreclosure can happen if you fall seriously behind or miss many of your mortgage payments, typically a few months, but the process may be initiated sooner and may be listed on your credit reports for up to seven years. The exact process for a foreclosure proceeding varies by state, but typically the bank will attempt to force a sale of the home, which is then used to pay back the mortgage. Sometimes this requires going to court and filing a lawsuit to initiate, but in any case, the lender must always notify you.
A Tax Lien
If you owe past-due taxes, the IRS can place a federal tax lien on your property, which ensures that when you sell property such as real estate, vehicles or even businesses you own, the IRS has dibs on the proceeds as payment for the taxes you owe.
Beginning in 2017 and continuing through 2018 all existing state and federal tax liens were removed from consumers’ credit reports. Depending on your situation a tax lien may still affect your credit. Read more about why tax liens were removed here.
Historically, if you lose a lawsuit in court and owe a debt as a result, the civil judgment would appear on your credit reports. But in 2017 when the credit bureaus removed tax liens from credit reports, they also removed civil judgments. Moving forward, credit reports will only include court records indicating you lost a lawsuit and had a civil judgment rendered against you if those records contain your name, address and either Social Security number or date of birth.