Public Record Information and Credit Reports, What’s There?

What public record information can find its way to your credit reports?  The answer is short and includes tax liens, bankruptcies, and civil judgments.  Civil judgments are debts owed because of a court order.  Tax liens are the result of unpaid taxes owed to the IRS.  And, bankruptcies represent legal protection from your creditors.

In the past,  public records were usually gathered by vendors that collected information from courthouses and sold the information to the credit reporting agencies (CRAs).  This was a very labor intensive process, which involved visiting each courthouse to record the information.  Each county, city and state maintains their public record information differently.  All of the three major CRAs have similar public record information because it is collected from the same sources.

Today most public records are collected electronically.  The system used is called PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).  It is used not only to source new public record information but also to verify public record information that has been disputed by the consumer.

Public record information can include the following information; the source of public record, plaintiff, status of the public record, date filed, date resolved, claim amount, liability amount and responsibility. Judgment statuses can either be “satisfied” or “unsatisfied”.  Satisfied means that the debt was paid.

What public record information isn’t on the credit file?   Property tax records, criminal lawsuits, and divorces and marriages are not included.  The credit reporting agencies (CRAs) can legally collect criminal records, but don’t.  And, although a foreclosure is a public record it is not picked up by the credit bureaus from the courthouses.  Instead they depend on the lender to report a foreclosure.

Judgments remain on the credit report for seven years from the filing date.  Liens remain on file for 7 years from the date paid.  And, bankruptcies remain on file for between 7 and 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy.

There are no good public records when it comes to credit reports.  They all are considered negative by lenders and by credit scoring systems.  You should avoid them at all costs because of how long some of them can persist on a credit report.

John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.

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