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Keeping your credit score high is important since this is how financial institutions determine whether you are worthy of being provided a line of credit. Your credit score will also be used to decide how much and at what terms you will be given a credit line. Therefore, it is a good idea to do whatever you can to make sure your credit score is as high as possible. This means avoiding having negative items being reported on your credit report. On the other hand, if you do happen to end up with negative items on your report it is important to understand for what length of time these will remain. 

Hard inquiries 

One type of credit report inquiry, known as hard inquiries, is counted as a negative item on your credit report and can suppress your credit score. Another type of credit report inquiry is soft inquiries which do not count as a negative item on your report. 

A hard inquiry is when a potential lender requests from the major credit reporting agencies your credit report for the purpose of determining your viability to receive a loan. Too many hard inquiries can lower your credit score. On the other hand, just a few occasional hard inquiries are usually not too detrimental. The problem arises when you have numerous hard inquiries occurring during a shorter time span. 

Soft inquiries happen when you request your own credit report from the major credit reporting agencies. Also, when a property owner pulls your credit report to decide whether or not to rent to you is considered a soft inquiry. Additionally, when an employer requests your credit report on deciding to hire you it is also counted as a soft inquiry and does not hurt your credit score. 

Fortunately, your credit report will only show hard inquiries for two years. 


One of the most impactful types of negative items that could end up on your credit report are delinquent or past due payments of your bills. Generally, payments which are late by 30 days or more will be recorded on your credit report. Delinquencies will usually remain for seven years on a credit report. 


When you have neglected paying a debt and the debtor writes off the debt as a loss, it is put on your credit report as a “charge-off” which negatively affects your credit score. Charge-offs remain on your credit report for seven years plus another 180 days after it has been reported. 

Student loan defaults 

When you default on a private student loan, it will stay on your credit report for seven years plus 180 days from when the default is reported to the credit reporting agency. However, education loans from the federal government are removed from your report after seven years from the date of the default or from when the loan is transferred to the U.S. Department of Education. 


When a mortgage lender forecloses on your home due to failure to make payments in a timely manner, it will stay on your credit report for seven years starting from the first payment you had missed. 

Lawsuits and judgements 

Judgements against you in civil court were supposed to have been deleted from your credit report starting in April 2018. This applies to judgements which have been paid as well as unpaid. Therefore, you should confirm these judgements have been removed from your report. 


When you file for bankruptcy, it will stay as a negative item on your credit report for seven to ten years. 

Tax liens 

You should double-check to make sure tax liens have been removed from your credit report, since that should have happened starting in April 2018. 

How can you improve your credit score? 

The best thing you can do to increase your credit score is make sure you do everything you can to avoid having negative items being added to your report. Make sure to pay your bills on time and do not live outside of your means. Creating a personal budgeting plan may be a great way to stay on top of your credit situation. 

Opinions expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Raymond James. All opinions are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.