A caller asks how to have a 12-year-old money judgment against you removed from public records to avoid having the judgment affect your credit rating.
The Maryland rule of civil procedure covering money judgments states that a judgment expires 12 years from the date of entry or renewal. A creditor can file a notice of renewal at any time before the expiration date, which starts the 12-year cycle again.
If the creditor allows the judgment to expire without filing a notice of renewal or collecting any payment, even a partial payment, the creditor will be unable to enforce the judgment after 12 years have passed.
The judgment has expired, but it may remain in court documents and may be accessible to credit reporting agencies.
A debtor may use the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to have expired debts removed from his credit report. Under the act, most debts must be removed from credit reports after seven years.
Step One: An individual can request a copy of his credit report by going to annualcreditreport.com, calling 1-877-322-8228, or by filling out a request form and mailing it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.The report will show whether the judgment is still on record.
Step Two: If the judgment is still on record and the debtor wants it removed, he will need to send a letter to the credit reporting agency explaining what information he believes is inaccurate in his credit report. The Federal Trade Commission has a sample dispute letter at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports.
Credit reporting agencies are required to investigate letters alleging inaccuracies, usually within 30 days. They will contact the individual or agency you believe provided inaccurate information, and that individual or agency must investigate. If it turns out that you are correct and inaccurate information was provided, the credit reporting agency must notify all three major national credit reporting agencies to correct the information in your file.
Step 3: Contact the source of the incorrect information, in writing, and explain what information you dispute in your credit report. Include copies of information that supports your position. In the case of an unpaid judgment that has expired, you may want to enter information about when the judgment was levied and when it expired.
The debtor may succeed in having the expired judgment removed from credit reports, as he no longer owes the debt. But court records are another matter. It may be possible to file a motion to vacate the judgment, but that would require the debtor to convince the judge that the judgment should never have been entered in the first place.
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To vacate a judgment, the debtor asks a court to declare the previous decision imposing the judgment legally void. A motion to vacate is typically filed when a defendant wants to defend the lawsuit in which the judgment was imposed and argue that it was improperly imposed against him.