By: George De Mare
Your credit report determines quite a bit about your life. Whether you’re approved for a loan, whether you qualify for credit, and what the interest rate is on both. Increasingly they’re used as factors in determining the down payment amounts for new utility services, whether you can rent an apartment, and whether you should be considered for a job. Whether you’re a young millennial or an older consumer, knowing the process to repair credit report errors can benefit you greatly.
With that much at stake, keeping tabs on your credit is very important. Particularly because the big credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion have very little incentive to verify the accuracy of the data they collect on you. Credit report errors happen, and if you aren’t actively checking for them, they’ll likely sit on your reports indefinitely, damaging your credit score. It’s the consumer’s responsibility to dispute any mistakes on their credit reports. It’s a hassle that takes time and effort to work through. But how long? This article will discuss what’s involved in getting an error removed from your credit report. It will also give estimates on how long each phase of the process takes. You’ll see that, from start to finish, you’re might be looking at weeks or months.
Find Credit Report Errors By Requesting Copies of Your Reports: 15 Days
By law, consumers are allowed one free copy of their credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus. If you suspect an error, the very first thing you should do is request a copy of all three. This can help you cross-reference the problem to determine how widespread it is.
To secure your free annual reports go to annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228. This is the only organization authorized to submit these requests. Be wary of other companies claiming to provide you with free credit reports.
Once you’ve requested your reports, the credit bureaus have 15 days to remit them to you. Generally, you should receive your reports by mail sometime within that window. If you’ve already received your annual report for the year from a given agency you can contact them directly to purchase an updated document.
Prepare and Submit Your Dispute: 1 – 2 Weeks
Once you’ve verified that credit report errors exist you’ll need to submit an official dispute with the bureau or bureaus misreporting the facts. This can take a week or two, depending on how quickly you can gather your evidence and prepare the necessary documents.
Disputes must be submitted in writing. It’s wise to send them by certified mail to document the beginning of the 30-day research period. You’ll include a letter of dispute and copies (keep the originals) of any evidence that supports your claim.
The dispute letter should specify exactly which entries you’re disputing and list the specific reasons why you feel they’re inaccurate, referencing your evidence when appropriate. It’s a good idea to include a copy of the report page, circling where the disputed entry can be found, for extra clarity.
After making your case, formally request that the erroneous entry or entries by removed from your report.
Wait for a Response: 30 – 45 Days
Errors that don’t involve specific credit complaints on your report, like a misspelling in your name or address, can be rectified reasonably quickly. Inaccurate credit complaints and related issues take longer because the credit bureau will first need to research the history of the erroneous data before they can decide on the validity of your dispute.
Agencies have up to 30 days to carry out this research, after which they have five days to make a determination and submit the results of your dispute. Disputes don’t commonly take the full 30 days to resolve. Generally, you’ll get a response somewhere in the middle, but you should prepare to wait through the full period just in case.
It’s worth noting that under certain circumstances, the law allows bureaus an additional 15 days to complete their research when needed. This isn’t common, but it can happen.
You’ll receive your answer by mail. If the credit bureau finds in your favor you’ll also receive a free copy of your credit report reflecting the requested change. There’s no need to do anything else if you’re happy with the result. However, it will take some time for your newly-accurate report to filter its way into your credit score. If your dispute is rejected you may accept the results or dispute the credit report errors again.
Renew Your Dispute: 30 Days – ?
You may resubmit your dispute if you disagree with the credit bureau’s findings. If you have any new evidence that might help your case you should submit it at this point.
You might also want to consider bringing in some outside help. Without new evidence or an experienced advocate helping to manage the process, it’s unlikely that your renewed dispute will receive a different answer. A consumer attorney or credit counselor can work on your behalf to try and get the dispute settled properly. Unfortunately, this increases the cost and the time required to prepare your defense. Once the disputes land back in the hands of the credit bureau they’ll have another 30 days to conduct a new investigation. If everything goes well this second time, you’ll receive a favorable answer and a new report showing your credit repair errors removed.
Wait for Your Credit Score to React: 60 Days
Congratulations! The mistake has been fixed. However, your credit score won’t react to the updated information right away. In fact, it can take up to 60 days for your credit score to tick upwards in response to the report correction.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to speed this process along. However, you can request that the offending credit bureau send out corrected information to every party that received your report in the last six months. If received for employment purposes, the bureau will send new reports to recipients over the last two years.
Final Answer ?
Nailing down an exact window is difficult, as the time it takes to finalize the dispute process depends on a lot of factors. However, it’s clear that you should start a dispute as quickly as possible because your resolution could be months in the future.