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What are derogatory marks and how can you fix them?

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Having a few items on your credit report dragging down your score can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you have a good financial record.

A derogatory mark is a negative item on your credit report that can be fixed by removing it or building positive credit activity. Because derogatory marks can stay on your credit report typically for seven to ten years, it’s important to know how to fix them.

Derogatory marks can affect your credit score, your ability to be approved for credit and the interest rates a lender offers you. Some derogatory marks are due to poor credit activity, such as a late payment. Or it could be an error that shouldn’t be on your report at all.

Types of negative items include late payments (30, 60, and 90 days), charge-offs, collections, foreclosures, repossessions, judgments, liens, and bankruptcies. We’ll cover what each one of these means, and how they can impact your credit reports.

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How do derogatory marks impact my credit score?

The amount that derogatory marks lower your credit score depends on the mark’s severity and how high your credit score was before the mark. For instance, bankruptcy has a greater impact on your credit score than a missed payment or debt settlement. And, unfortunately, having a derogatory mark impacts a high credit score more than it does a low credit score.

According to CreditCards.com and CNNMoney, even a single negative on your credit could cost you over 100 points. Negative items on your credit could cost you thousands of dollars in higher interest rates, or you could be denied altogether.

negative item score decrease stats

How long a derogatory mark stays on your credit report depends on the type of mark.

How long do derogatory marks stay on my credit report?

Derogatory marks usually stay on your credit report for around seven to ten years, depending on the type. After that period passes, the mark will roll off your report and you should start seeing a change in your credit score.

Here’s how long each derogatory mark stays on your credit report:

Type of derogatory mark What is it? How long does this stay on a credit report?
Late payment Late payments are payments made 30 days or more after the payment due date. Typically, this can remain on your report for seven years from the date you made a late payment.
An account in collections or a charge-off Creditors send your account to collections or charge them off if there’s been no payment for 180 days. Typically, this can remain on your report for seven years from the date you made a late payment.
Tax lien A tax lien is when the government claims you’ve neglected or failed to pay taxes on your property or financial assets. Unpaid tax lien: Can remain on your report indefinitely.

Paid tax lien: Can remain on your report seven years from the date the lien was filed.

Civil judgment Civil judgments are a debt you owe through the court, such as if your landlord sued you over missed rent payments. Unpaid civil judgment: Can remain on your report for seven years from when the judgment was filed, but can be renewed if left unpaid.

Paid civil judgment: Can remain on your report for seven years from when the judgment was filed.

Debt settlement Debt settlement is when you and your creditor agree that you will pay less than the full amount owed. A typical time period is seven years, starting from when the debt was settled or the date of the first delinquent payment if there were missed payments.
Foreclosure Foreclosure is when you fail to pay your mortgage and you forfeit the right to the property. Typically, seven years from the foreclosure filing date.
Bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a court proceeding to discharge your debt and sell your assets. Can remain on your report for seven years for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can remain on your report for 10 years.
Repossession A repossession is when your assets are seized, such as a vehicle that was used as collateral. Can remain on your report for seven years from the first date of the missed payment.

Types of derogatory marks

Late payments

Late payments occur when you’ve been 30, 60, or 90 days late paying an account. Although you don’t want late payments on your credit reports, an occasional 30 or 60-day late payment isn’t too severe. But you don’t want frequent late payments and you don’t want late payments on every single account. One recent late payment on a single account can lower a score by 15 to 40 points, and missing one payment cycle for all accounts in the same month can cause a score to tank by 150 points or more.

Payments 90 days late or more start to factor more heavily into your credit score, and consecutive late payments are even more harmful to your score, as each subsequent late payment is weighted more heavily. Sometimes, creditors will report payments as late as 120 days, which can be almost as severe as charge-offs and collections. Late payments can be reported to the credit bureaus once you have been more than 30 days late on an account and these late payments can stay on your credit reports for up to seven years.

Charge offs

A charge off is when a creditor writes off your unpaid debt. Typically, this occurs when you have been 180 days late on an account. Charge offs have a severely negative impact on your credit, and like most other negative items can stay on your credit reports for seven years. When an account is charged off, your creditor can sell it to collection agencies, which is even worse news for your credit.

Creditors see a charge off as a glaring indication that you have not been responsible with your finances in the past and cannot be counted on to fulfill your financial obligations in the future. When creditors see a charge off on your credit reports, they are more likely to deny any new applications for loans or lines of credit because they see you as a financial risk. If you do qualify, this can mean higher interest rates. Current creditors can respond by raising your interest rates on your existing balances.

Tax liens

In most cases, liens are the result of unpaid taxes – whether it’s at the state or the federal level. For a federal tax lien, the IRS can place a lien against your property to cover the cost of unpaid taxes. Tax liens can make it difficult to get approved for new lines of credit or loans because the government has claimed to your property. What this means is that if you default on any other accounts, your creditors have to stand in line behind the IRS to collect.

Unpaid liens can stay indefinitely on your credit reports. Once they have been paid, however, they can stay on your reports for up to seven years. Like judgments though, the credit bureaus are strictly regulated on how they can report liens because they are also public records.

Civil judgments

Judgments are public records that are also referred to as civil claims. A judgment can be taken out against a debtor for an unpaid balance. A creditor or collection agency can file a suit in court. If the court rules in favor of the creditor, a judgment is taken out against the debtor and put on their credit reports. This, like many other negative items, has a severely negative impact, and like most other negative items can be reported for seven years.

Judgments are also another indication that a person won’t pay their debts. Lawsuits are time-consuming and costly, so they are something that creditors potentially want to avoid. When a judgment is filed though, it can impact more than credit. The judge may allow the creditor to garnish a debtor’s wages, which can heavily impact finances.


Collections are the most common types of accounts on credit reports. About one-third of Americans with credit reports have at least one collection account. Over half of these accounts are due to medical bills, but other accounts like unpaid credit cards and loans, utilities, and parking tickets can be sold to collections.

Collections arise from debts that are sold to third parties by the original creditor if a bill goes unpaid for too long. They have a severe negative impact on your credit and can stay on your reports for up to seven years. When potential creditors see collections on your credit reports, it can raise flags and cause them to think that you won’t pay your debts.


A foreclosure is a legal proceeding that is initiated by a mortgage lender when a homeowner has been unable to make payments. Usually, a lender will file a foreclosure when a homeowner has been three months late or more on mortgage payments.

When a lender decides to foreclose, they begin by filing a Notice of Default with the County Recorder’s Office, which begins the legal proceedings. If a foreclosure goes through and a homeowner can’t catch up on payments, then they are evicted from their home, and the foreclosure is reported to the credit bureaus.


Bankruptcy is extremely damaging to credit. Individuals who file for bankruptcy are those who have too much debt, and not enough money to pay it. They likely have had overdue accounts for a long period of time and in some cases loss of income that prevents them from being able to pay any of their bills. Bankruptcies can also arise from huge medical debt.

Whether or not file for bankruptcy is a difficult decision, and doing so can impact your credit from seven to ten years, depending on the type of bankruptcy you file. When a bankruptcy is filed, debts are discharged and the individuals filing are released from most of their previously incurred debts (there are some exceptions). This option can give people a “clean slate” from debt, but creditors don’t like to see it on credit reports because it can imply that an individual won’t pay their debts.


A repossession is a loss of property on a secured loan. Secured loans are where you have collateral, like a car or a house, and the loss occurs when the lender takes back the property because of the inability to pay. Usually, when this occurs, the lender will auction off the collateral to make up for the remaining balance, although it doesn’t usually cover the remaining balance.

When there is a remaining balance, the creditor may choose to sell it off to collections. A repossession has a severe negative impact on credit because it shows a debtor’s inability to pay back a loan. Usually, a repossession follows a long line of late payments and can knock a lot of points off a credit score.

How can I improve my credit score with derogatory marks on my credit report?

If you have derogatory marks, you can improve your credit score by working to rebuild your credit. By boosting your credit score, you’re more likely to get approved for loans and credit cards.

Here’s how to improve your credit score based on the type of derogatory mark:

Derogatory mark What to do to improve your credit score
Late payments Pay off the full debt as soon as possible. If there are late fees, ask the creditor to drop the fee (they often do if it’s your first time being late).
Stay on top of your payments with other lenders to show that you’re responsible, reducing the impact of a late payment.
An account in collections or a charge-off Pay off the debt or negotiate a settlement where you pay less than the full amount owed. Making a payment doesn’t remove the negative mark from your report, but prevents you from being sued over the debt.
Tax lien Pay the taxes you owe in full as soon as possible. Continue to make timely payments with any creditors and lenders.
Civil judgment Pay off the judgment amount, ideally before it gets to court. Make other payments on time to limit the impact of the civil judgment on your credit score.
Debt settlement Pay the full settled amount to prevent your account from going to collections or being charged off.
Foreclosure Keep other credit and loans open and make timely payments to build up positive credit activity.
Bankruptcy Rebuild your credit after bankruptcy with credit cards that cater to lower credit and credit builder loans. Make timely payments to reestablish that you’re a responsible borrower.
Repossessions Continue to pay other bills on time and pay off any further debt to the creditor.

You can also remove derogatory marks if they’re inaccurate or unfairly reported. By requesting your free credit report, you can look for mistakes and inaccuracies.

For example, check to see if a missed payment was inaccurately reported or if someone else’s account got mixed up with yours. You can remove these mistakes, giving your credit score a boost. 

How do I remove derogatory marks from my credit report?

You can remove derogatory marks from your credit report by disputing inaccuracies with the credit bureaus. Here’s how:

1. Request and review your credit report

TransUnion, Equifax and Experian provide one free credit report each year. Request your credit report and review it closely for errors.

Look through both “closed” and “open” derogatory marks. Check to see if your personal information is correct and if the creditor reported payments and dates appropriately. Take note of any discrepancies.

2. Dispute derogatory marks

If you notice incorrect items, payments or dates you need to file a dispute with that credit bureau (and any bureau that lists the item on your report).

You can file a dispute through the credit bureau or have a professional assist you. It’s best to make disputes as soon as you notice them, ideally within 30 days of the incident. The credit bureaus must respond to you within 30-45 days. 

3. Follow up on the dispute

You may have to provide more information or proof to refute something on your credit report. Be sure to respond to any inquiries by the specified time. Check your credit report afterward to make sure that the error is removed.

Removing a derogatory mark from your credit report helps to repair your credit. You’ll also want to improve your credit by doing things like lowering your credit utilization rate, upping the average age of your credit and making timely payments.

If you’re unable to remove a derogatory mark from your credit report, you’ll need to wait until it rolls off of your report, usually within seven to 10 years. In the meantime, work to rebuild your credit and improve your creditworthiness.

steps to remove derogatory marks from credit report

How can I get help with derogatory marks?

You can remove derogatory marks from your credit report by yourself. However, getting help from a credit repair company can make the process easier and improve your chances of getting the negative mark removed.

Many consumers appreciate professional help as it saves time, energy and resources. Contact us for a free credit report consultation. We’ll talk about your unique situation and the ways that we can help you.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com

The 4 Biggest Budget Surprises for New College Grads

Life after graduating college is a time of surprises. You’re thrust into the adult world for the first time, forced to earn your way and find your place, all while still feeling like a kid inside. Some people make the transition smoothly, but most of us struggle a bit.  

That’s especially true when it comes to your finances. Given the poor state of financial education in American schools, most people graduate college barely able to write a check or remember the PIN number for their debit card.

So, a little stumbling is inevitable – but that doesn’t mean you need to fall on your face. The best way to avoid a rude awakening is to get ahead of the game. Here are some of the biggest budget surprises to look out for. 


Lots of students spend their college years without a car, opting to walk, bike or take the bus to class (or to the bars). When they graduate, it can be a shock to leave the comforts of a campus where everything is close by. 

While some opt for the sensible choice of buying a used car in cash, many more head for the dealership to purchase or lease a new car. That may have been a practical decision when their parents graduated, but these days the cost of a new car is prohibitive for most twentysomethings. In 2017 the average monthly payment for a new car was $479, not including the cost of insurance, gas and maintenance. 

How to avoid them: Buying a car you can’t afford is a common problem graduates run into. It’s so easy to let a smooth-talking salesman convince you to take the plunge, especially when your friends and family are making similar mistakes. But before you sign those papers, look at your budget and consider how much you can truly handle. 

Don’t be afraid to shop for a used car. If you look for a newer model, most people won’t even be able to tell the difference. There will always be time to upgrade your ride, but it’s probably not a good idea to start your adult life with a purchase that puts you $30,000 in the hole. 

If you still need a car loan, apply for one at a local credit union. They’ll almost certainly have better rates than the dealership, allowing you to put aside more for travel, hobbies and retirement saving. 

Health Insurance

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, college graduates have been able to stay on their parent’s health insurance until age 26. But if your mom or dad is ready to kick you off the family plan, you’ll have to buy your own coverage. 

The average health insurance premium in 2016 was $393, but costs vary widely depending on where you live and what kind of plan your employer offers. The premium isn’t the only thing a recent grad has to worry about – they also have to pay for any out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, copays and prescriptions.  

How to avoid them: If you have a job, see what’s available through your employer. If you’re still considering offers, review the benefits packages closely. The difference in healthcare options could mean saving or spending thousands more each year. 

Most health insurance options have a few tiers of service, ranging from bare minimum to first-class insurance. Unless you have a chronic health condition or visit the doctor frequently, opt for the plan with the cheapest premium. You’ll pay a hefty sum when you visit the doctor, but save on monthly premiums. 


I’ll never forget it. I was running late to work one day, when I got in my car and noticed a big crack that covered the length of my windshield. I decided to replace it immediately, as it was almost winter and I was worried the windshield could shatter while I was driving. I found a company that came out to my office and replaced the windshield for $100, a small fortune for my 22 year-old self. 

I was so disappointed. Here I was, just a few weeks into my first real post-grad job, faced with an $100 emergency I wasn’t prepared for. That experience taught me a valuable lesson about always having a rainy day fund. If I was willing to plan ahead for vacations and concert tickets, I could plan ahead for stray rocks hitting my windshield. 

How to avoid them: Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to completely avoid emergencies. Eventually, you’ll have a funeral to travel to, a car accident or a medical emergency.  

The only way to avoid being financially surprised is to plan ahead with an emergency fund. A starter emergency fund should have at least $1,000 in it, which will cover most minor incidents. If you have an unstable job or a lot of debt, you should save three month’s worth of expenses.  

Only use the emergency fund for unforeseen expenses – not for costs you can anticipate. Once you start dipping into your emergency fund for non-emergencies, there’s a good chance it won’t be there when you need it. 

Student Loans 

A 2014 study from the Brookings Institute found that most freshman college students had a poor idea of how much they owed in student loans. About 50% of them underestimated how much they owed by more than $5,000, and 28% claimed to have no student loans when they still owed money. That might explain why many graduates are shocked when they finally get the Sallie Mae bill in the mail.  

How to avoid them: All federal student loan servicers and some private lenders provide a six-month grace period after graduation, meant to help borrowers get settled before they start making payments. If you’re still in that sweet spot, use this time to build up a small emergency fund and prepare your budget for student loans. 

Explore your repayment options if you’re worried about affording the monthly bill. Borrowers with federal loans have access to several income-based plans which can significantly decrease how much they pay each month. A graphic designer earning $40,000 a year with $35,000 in student loans could pay as little as $183 a month if they choose a different repayment plan. 

Graduates with private loans usually don’t have extra repayment options. Instead, they can try to refinance their loans with another lender to get a lower interest rate. 

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