Reading your credit report Part 6: Public Records

Public Records

The next section is the part you want to be blank. The public records section is never a good story.  If you have a public record on there, you’ve had a problem that has required litigation.  It doesn’t list arrests and criminal activities; just financial-related data, such as bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens. Those are the monsters that will trash your credit faster than anything else.

Here are definitions of the eight types of public records you could see listed on your credit report:

  • Bankruptcy:  A legal filing that relieves a person of responsibility for all or some of their debts because they are unable to pay.
  • Tax Lien:  A claim filed by a local, state or federal tax agency against a person who owes back taxes.
  • Legal Item:  A general filing. This is most commonly a judgment against you in civil action.
  • Marital Item:  A legal filing related to a marital or divorce issue.
  • Financial Counseling:  A public record indicating that a person has participated in financial counseling.
  • Financial Statement:  A type of lien filed by a creditor against a person’s property. This can be filed when a loan is secured against personal property.
  • Foreclosure:  A record indicating that a mortgaged property has been taken over by the creditor because the borrower has defaulted on the loan.
  • Garnishment:  A record indicating a court order to withhold some or all a person’s wages to repay a debt owed to a creditor.

The summary information listed for each of these types of public records can vary. Here are some definitions of common record categories:

  • Type:  The type of record. For example, a tax lien, bankruptcy, garnishment, or judgment.
  • Status:  Current status of the record. For example, released, filed or dismissed.
  • Date Filed/Reported:  Date when the record was initially filed or created.
  • How Filed:  The role that you played in the public record. Usually the record is filed either individually or jointly.
  • Reference Number:  Identifying number for the record.
  • Released/Closing Date:  Date when the record was closed, released or judgment was awarded.
  • Court:  The court or legal agency that has jurisdiction over the record.
  • Plaintiff:  The plaintiff in the case of a legal judgment.]
  • Amount:  Dollar amount of the lien or judgment.
  • Remarks:  Notes regarding the public record as reported to the credit bureaus.

If the public record is a bankruptcy, three other fields will be visible.

  • Liability:  The amount the court found you to be legally responsible to repay.
  • Exempt Amount:  The dollar amount claimed against you that the court has decided you are not legally responsible for.
  • Asset Amount:  The dollar amount of total personal assets used in the court’s decision.  The Asset Amount can include items of value that can be used to pay debts.

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