A bankruptcy can protect you when financial disaster strikes. If you can no longer afford to keep up with the payments on your credit obligations, bankruptcy may offer some much needed relief.
Yet filing for bankruptcy can also have unpleasant consequences when it comes to your credit. A bankruptcy on your credit reports may lower your credit scores and make it tough to qualify for new financing. Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean you have no options, but it can make your options limited and more expensive.
Because of the difficulty a bankruptcy can cause you, you may wonder if it’s possible to remove it from your credit reports. The answer to this question isn’t simple. Sometimes you can remove a bankruptcy from your credit report while other times you can’t.
When you suspect that a bankruptcy on your credit reports is incorrect in some way, you can ask the credit bureaus to delete it. But if the bankruptcy is accurate, you might be stuck with the entry on your reports for up to a decade. Even in this situation, however, you’re not doomed to have horrible credit for 10 years. You can work to improve your credit situation while a bankruptcy is still on your reports.
Before we dive into the ways bankruptcy impacts your credit, it helps to understand how bankruptcy works. Two common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Both options can help you if you’re struggling with an unaffordable debt burden, but they operate in different ways.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy is known as liquidation. It wipes out your eligible debts (typically within three to four months) and you’re not required to make additional payments. But if you own property like a home or a vehicle, you might have to give it up unless you qualify for an exemption.
Before you can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy you may have to pass a means test. A bankruptcy attorney can help you figure out if you’re eligible to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or help you determine if Chapter 13 might be a better option.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is also called a wage earner’s plan. It’s the option you might choose if you have property you want to keep or if you earn too much to qualify for Chapter 7.
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy can help you stop debt collection efforts and halt the foreclosure process. But it doesn’t automatically wipe out your debt. Instead, it helps you combine your debts together so you can make one payment that you can afford.
You make a single payment to a trustee who distributes payments to your creditors. Once you make payments for three to five years years (depending on your specific case), the remaining balances on qualifying debts are wiped out when your bankruptcy is discharged. Talk to a bankruptcy attorney for more information and to discuss your specific situation.
Debts you’re allowed to include in a bankruptcy are known as “dischargeable.” Some common examples of these debts include the following.
Debts you can’t include in bankruptcy are “non-dischargeable.” Below are some common types of debts a bankruptcy probably won’t help you resolve.
Depending upon the type of bankruptcy you file, it might stay on your credit report for up to a decade. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) outlines the credit reporting limitations for bankruptcies as follows.
You should review your credit reports often to make sure they’re accurate. You can claim a copy of all three of your reports once every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com.
When you’re reading your credit report to see if a bankruptcy is listed, start by finding the public records section of the report. In the past, tax liens and judgments could be found in this section too. However, the credit bureaus have since removed judgments and tax liens from credit reports as part of the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP). Now, bankruptcies are the only public records included on consumer credit reports.
When you file for bankruptcy protection from your creditors, the impact on your credit reports and scores is often severe. As long as a bankruptcy record is on your report, it may damage your credit rating.
You can’t put a number on how much a bankruptcy may lower your credit scores in advance. You have to wait and see the impact when it happens. A bankruptcy filing isn’t considered in a vacuum. Instead, a credit scoring model considers all of the information on your credit report together when it calculates your credit score. So, a bankruptcy might affect your score differently than it affects the next person.
One more negative piece of information might not cause your credit scores to decline much. In some odd cases, your score could actually climb. But that’s the exception, not the rule.
The subsequent drop in your score could potentially be extreme. Also, the more accounts you include in your bankruptcy filing, the worse the impact may be on your credit scores.
You can work to improve your credit scores even while a bankruptcy is still listed on your credit reports. Establishing new credit can help. You shouldn’t expect those positive accounts to fix everything, but they can be a step in the right direction if you manage them carefully.
It’s true that qualifying for new credit after bankruptcy can be tricky. Yet if you apply for the right kinds of accounts, your odds of success should be higher.
Regardless of the type of accounts you open, be sure to make every payment on time. With credit cards it’s also important to pay your balance in full monthly and keep a low debt-to-limit ratio on the accounts.
The FCRA lets the credit bureaus include bankruptcy filings on credit reports for up to 10 years in some cases. But there are other rules the credit bureaus must follow as well. Namely, any information a credit bureau includes on your credit report should be 100% accurate.
Credit reporting errors aren’t uncommon after a bankruptcy (or at other times, for that matter). In a study by the Federal Trade Commission, 25% of consumers found errors on their credit reports that might impact their credit scores.
If you discover an error or questionable information on your credit report, you have the right to dispute the item. This rule applies to bankruptcies too. You can dispute a bankruptcy you disagree with on your own or with professional help.
Only the credit bureaus have the ability to remove an item from your credit report, including bankruptcies. If you dispute an item on your credit report and a credit bureau can’t verify that it’s accurate, it must delete the account from your report.
However, disputed items can also be verified and remain on your report. It may help to have a professional guide you through your options if this happens to you.
Some people prefer to outsource credit disputes to someone else because they’re busy or feel overwhelmed by the process. If this describes you, you might want to consider hiring a reputable professional to help.
A credit repair specialist can send disputes to the credit bureaus on your behalf and follow up with additional suggestions if the credit bureaus fail to remove inaccurate data from your credit report. Call 1-877-637-2673 to schedule a free credit consultation with a Credit Saint counselor today.