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Most information stays in your credit report for seven years


Richard M. Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

The People’s Lawyer


Q. I have kept current with all my bills except one—a credit card bill I could not afford. After several months of negotiations, I settled in full with the company. My credit report still shows my delinquency and that the debt was past due. It does indicate that the debt was paid. Now that the debt is settled, how do I get this information removed from my credit report?

A. A credit report is simply a compilation of information about your credit history. The credit bureaus gather information from all of your creditors and report it. The law requires that information be complete and accurate. If there is incorrect or incomplete information in your report, you may demand the credit bureau reinvestigate and remove or correct the information. Under the law, most information stays in your report for seven years, after which time is becomes obsolete and is generally no longer reported. A bankruptcy is reported for ten years and unpaid tax liens generally remain on your credit report indefinitely.

In your case, it sounds like the credit bureau is accurately reporting the activity with your account. Your account was past due, and it was ultimately settled and paid. There is no way to have this information removed, and it will remain for seven years. Having said that, I also should add that although this information will hurt your credit, the harm may be small and after time may have little effect. One bad account that is settled in full will negatively affect your credit rating, but my guess is that if you continue to maintain good credit and pay your bills on time, you will soon return to the same position your were in before this problem.

Q. My father gave my husband and me the down payment for our house. He sent us a letter stating that the money was a gift and there was no expectation for repayment. A few weeks later, he asked us to sign a promissory note for the amount that he gifted us. We signed it. Now he wants us to repay him and is going to enforce the promissory note. Is it enforceable?

A. This could be complicated, but based on what you say my opinion is you are not bound by the note. If your father in fact made a gift, your subsequent promise in the promissory note is not enforceable. To be enforceable, a promise must have what the law calls “consideration.” In other words, the promise must be given in exchange for something else. If he asked you to promise to repay him when he gave you the money, your promise would be enforceable. The “consideration” would be the exchange of money for your promise. In your case, however, your promise was not made in exchange for anything else. The money had already been give to you, and therefore, your promise to repay is not legally enforceable.

Q. My husband pays child support for one child. Is child support computed based on salary plus overtime? I thought overtime was not included because it is not guaranteed.

A. The law requires that the court consider all “net resources” when computing child support payments. This term is defined to include overtime, tips, and bonuses. When computing the amount of support, however, the court will take into consideration the fact that overtime pay may not be earned on a regular basis.

Q. I recently had an automobile accident. The other person promised to pay for my damage, but has yet to give me any money. How many days after an automobile accident do I have to file a suit in justice court?

A. A claim to collect damages from an automobile accident is a “tort” lawsuit. In most cases, the claim is based on the fact that the other party was “negligent” and caused the accident. In Texas, suits based on negligence must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.

Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net

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