Each entry on your credit report is subject to a reporting period set by the federal government. The reporting period limits the amount of time that any item may appear within your credit history. This ensures that your credit information is as up to date as possible for lenders that review your credit file. The reporting period differs depending on the type of debt being reported.

A public record is any legal information about you that is accessible by the general public. Many public records, such as a record of your marriage or your vehicle registration, will not appear on your credit report. Those that do appear, however, usually surface due to an unpaid debt and have a negative effect on your credit score.

Judgments


Judgments are one form of public record you may find on your credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) limits judgments to a reporting period of seven years. In some states, a creditor may petition the court system to renew an unpaid judgment for a period of up to 20 years. This does not, however, affect the reporting period for the judgment. After the notation has appeared for seven years, it must be removed by the credit bureaus and cannot be reinserted.

Tax Debts


A tax debt is yet another item of public record that you may find on your credit report. If you owe property taxes or income taxes and pay them promptly, the debt will never be added to your credit history. If you neglect to pay off the debt in a timely manner, however, it can turn up on your credit report. The FCRA does not stipulate when the credit bureaus are required to remove an unpaid tax debt. Thus, if you do not pay the taxes you owe, the debt could appear within your credit history indefinitely. Although there are no strict rules regarding the reporting period for unpaid tax debts, the credit bureaus will usually remove these records after 15 years. If you pay your tax debt after it has already been inserted into your credit file, the notation will be removed seven years from the date you paid off the debt.

Bankruptcies


Bankruptcies are one of the most common public records that consumers have on their credit reports. A bankruptcy can appear on your credit report for up to ten years. If, however, you chose to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy rather than a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the notation will usually be removed after seven years. Although a formal reason for this has never been provided, it has been speculated that the effort an individual puts forth to repay his debts under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy merits its early removal.

Foreclosures


If your home is seized by your mortgage lender due to your failure to make regular payments, the foreclosure becomes a matter of public record and will appear on your credit report. A foreclosure must be removed seven years from the date the property seizure occurred.

Foreclosures often come with an added danger. If the value of your property was less than the amount you owed your lender, the lender may sue you for the difference. If the lender wins the lawsuit, a judgment will be levied against you. As long as the debt is still within the statute of limitations for debt collection, your lender can wait as long as it pleases to file a lawsuit. This may result in a judgment appearing on your credit report after the original record of the foreclosure has been removed.

Once the time frame for reporting a public record has expired, the credit bureaus should promptly remove the record from your credit report. If this does not occur, you can contact the credit bureaus and notify them that the record is obsolete and should be removed. Regardless of the type of public record being reported, the credit bureaus are required to follow the legal reporting period for each item in order to ensure that your credit report is accurate.