How to remove negative items from your credit report

Don’t let negative information ruin your credit score – you can successfully dispute negative information, and improve your credit score in the process. (iStock)

M. Reese Everson, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, knows a thing or two about getting negative items removed from a credit report.

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“In 2012, I moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. for a post-graduate Congressional Fellowship,” Everson said. “My student loans from law school were in deferment. When I moved, my mail for my loans kept going to my old address in Chicago. The loan deferral period ended, the loans went into repayment then were past due, because I never received a notice.”

When she applied for an apartment and was denied, Everson was shocked, because she believed her credit score was well over 700. “I pulled my credit score and saw that, because of my student loans, my score had dropped 100 points because the loans were listed as 'in default,'” she said. “I quickly went to work calling the servicer who kept sending me from one customer service agent to another. Finally, I was able to speak to someone at the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) who contacted the servicer and asked them to assist me."

Within a few months of diligent work removing the negative student loan information, Everson’s good credit was restored. “I’ve had to dispute other negative items on my credit report, and each time I’ve done so, my credit score has either gone back to normal or even improved,” she said.

How to remove negative credit report entries yourself

If you want to emulate Everson's success, the best way to remove a negative credit report entry yourself is to file a dispute with the credit bureau, financial experts said.

“The credit bureau will investigate the accuracy of the negative credit entry with the business creditor,” said Dr. Bob Castaneda, program director for Walden University's MS in finance program. “You can also ask the business to remove the negative credit entry by explaining a late payment or if you typically pay bills on time. Negotiating with the business, by offering to pay off debt in exchange for having a negative credit report entry removed, is another option.”

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To dispute a credit report error, send a letter, either online or by mail, to the credit bureau that reported it and explain why it is a mistake, Castaneda said. “In addition to the status of the account, include supporting documentation. Keep a copy of all information sent to the credit bureau,” he noted.

“You can also contact the business that reported the negative credit report entry to try and get this resolved,” he added.

All three major credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- have specific mailing or online links to submit disputes.

The steps to submit a dispute include:

  • As soon as you notice an error on your credit report, verify which credit bureaus are reporting the error and immediately contact them to file a dispute, Castaneda said.
  • Write a letter that includes the dispute, copies of documentation to support this claim and your contact information. “Most importantly, ask the credit bureau to delete or correct the error,” he noted.
  • Submit your dispute letter to the credit bureau online or by mail. “If using a courier, send your dispute as certified mail with return receipt requested,” Castaneda said.
  • If it’s not an identity-related mistake by the credit bureau, also contact the business reporting the error and ask them to correct it.
  • Review the results of the investigation. “If the update doesn't appear on your credit reports within several months, contact the credit bureaus and the business to verify it's reporting your account information to the agencies,” Castaneda said.
  • If the business insists the dispute is accurate, you can request that the credit bureau include a statement in your credit file, explaining the dispute. “Or, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Castaneda added.

If you’re either in Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, note that Chapter 13 bankruptcy is removed from a credit report seven years after the filing date while Chapter 7 bankruptcy is removed 10 years from the filing date because none of the debt is repaid.

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A great way to improve your credit score

Removing negative items from your credit report can improve your credit score – but be patient. “From the time the dispute is reported to the time the correction is made, it would take approximately 60 days to see results on one's credit score,” Castaneda said. The Federal Trade Commission also advises that if your dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction or found in your favor, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and future reports, Castaneda added.