Credit Repair: What Is A Public Record?

A brief article defining the term

A public record on your credit report can be one of many things. A general definition for the term "public record" as it applies to credit reporting would be anything that is considered public record by law. On your credit report, there is a special section devoted specifically to reporting public records.

A public record listing on a credit report can be many things, including judgments (both state and federal), bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, etc., and can remain on your credit report for between 7 and 10 years.

Who reports these public records to your credit?

Any public source can report these items to the credit bureaus, where it eventually ends up on your credit report in the special public records section. In the case of judgments (anyone can obtain a judgment against you by suing you for monies owed and winning in court or by default""which means you did nothing to fight it), the individual courts make these records available to the credit bureaus and the credit bureaus generally collect and update their information on a monthly basis. The information does not come directly from the creditor, or the person who won in court. It comes directly from the court records. Of course, this explains why your charge account is still showing up on your credit report, IN ADDITION to the public record at or near the top of your credit report. Judgments last 7 to 10 years, and in some states can be renewable, meaning potential credit problems for you for a long time to come.

Bankruptcies, Chapters 7, 11 or 13, are reported in basically the same way judgments are, and last for about ten years, which is the time frame in which you cannot re-file for bankruptcy. Foreclosures (where the bank takes back your real estate due to nonpayment) and tax liens (which can include unpaid property taxes, unpaid state taxes and unpaid tax owed to the federal government) are reported by the county clerk or county recorder for the area the property involved resides, or by the government agency you owe money to. Again, these items last 7 to 10 years.

Can public records be removed?

Even though you may settle an outstanding credit card debt, pull your house out of foreclosure, or pay off a tax lien, a public record will stay on your credit report and run its course. If you pay off the outstanding amount, the only thing you can really do is monitor the report and make sure it is updated, changed to a zero balance, and listed as "satisfied". Unless there is a true identity problem, and an error on the part of the credit bureau in question, these items are there to stay""at least for 7 to 10 years. Unlike other items on your credit report, there is no surefire way to have these items completely removed for any other reason than incorrect identity.

So what can you do?

The only real recourse you have is to try to satisfy the underlying debt that resulted in the public record in the first place. If the item shows satisfied on your credit report, and enough time has passed, some credit grantors will look past the public record, give you credit for taking care of it, and possibly extend that credit or loan anyway. All is not lost. Even today, some credence is given to those who make an honest effort to resolve these outstanding credit issues, and with 10 years of good behavior, you can get these marks off your credit report.

If, on the other hand, you are NOT the person they claim you are, you must first contact each of the credit bureaus and dispute the item. You then need to contact the party who is claiming the lien or judgment, and work out with them that you are not in fact the John Smith who owes them money, but another John Smith who has never done business with them, for example. Then, the slow and almost painful process of fixing a credit report with an error on it can begin. It's an involved process that requires a lot of time and patience, and not something entered into lightly. It can be done, however, if you can definitely prove the judgment debtor is not you.

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