Removing a 6-year-old collection? Pay for delete or just let it fall off.

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
How long before I can get a 6-year-old open collection for a broken lease on a apartment taken off my report? Thanks!  –Johnny

Hi Johnny,
I’m taking “open collection” to mean you still owe something to your former landlord.  If so, my first suggestion would be to send a “Pay for Delete” (PFD) letter to the collection agency via certified mail (return receipt requested). The letter should say that you agree to pay the balance owed, and in exchange they agree to delete the collection from your credit reports.

You will absolutely want to get their agreement in writing before paying, as collection agencies are notorious for saying one thing and doing another. You can Google “pay for delete” for examples of letters, however, when contacting collection agencies or credit bureaus it’s always a good idea to use your own words to avoid having it look like the kind of boilerplate letters they receive all the time – and ignore – from credit repair companies.

Once this debt is outside the statutes of limitations for your state (SOL) the collection agency can no longer sue you for payment, though they can continue to contact you (within the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act guidelines) indefinitely.  Since they lose quite a bit of leverage once outside the SOL, I would think they’d have an incentive to comply with your request. In fact, you may even be able to get them to settle for less than the full amount due, though it sounds like getting it deleted may be more important to you than saving a few bucks.

You’re actually pretty lucky, not only because by being outside the SOL this debt is now considered “time barred debt,” but also because you don’t have a judgment obtained by your former landlord on your credit report. Judgments, whether satisfied (paid) or not, remain on your credit report for seven years from the filing date and can have a seriously negative impact on your score. They can also be re-filed for another seven years if unsatisfied.

Regardless of the SOL – paid or not – the collection will remain on your credit report for no more than seven years from the date it was assigned to the collection agency. So, even if you’re unsuccessful at getting the collection removed, you can relax knowing it won’t be on there much longer either way. Be aware, though, that even after falling off your credit report the debt can pop back up as a new collection for another seven years if not paid, despite the agency continuing to be unable to sue you.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

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