Where do I get information on consumer credit laws?
For information on consumer credit laws, contact the National Foundation for Consumer Credit, 8701 Georgia Ave., Suite 507, Silver Springs, MD 20910; call (301) 589-5600.

How long do bankruptcies and foreclosures stay on a credit report?
Bankruptcies and foreclosures can remain on a credit report for seven to 10 years. Some lenders will consider an borrower earlier if they have reestablished good credit. The circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy can also influence a lender's decision. For example, if you went through a bankruptcy because your employer had financial difficulties, a lender may be more sympathetic. If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, the lender probably will be less inclined to be flexible.

What do I do about bad credit?
Credit problems are the main reason would-be home buyers are denied a loan. The first step to clearing up your credit is to get a copy of your credit report to make sure that the negative credit information is indeed accurate. For a copy of your report, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian at (800) 311-4769, Equifax at (800) 685-1111 and Trans Union at (312) 408-1077. The bureaus should provide instructions on how to read the report and how to dispute any inaccuracies it contains. If your credit report is correct, take care of any outstanding delinquent obligations first. Lenders usually won't consider any borrower who has had a delinquent payment in the past year.

Where do I get a copy of my credit report?
For a copy of your own credit report, call one of the three main national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, (800) 685-1111; Experian, (800) 311-4769 or Trans Union, (312) 408-1077. The bureaus also should provide instructions on how to read their report and dispute any inaccuracies it contains.

How do I find out what my credit report says?
For a copy of your own credit report, call one of the three main national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, (800) 685-1111; Experian, (800) 311-4769 or Trans Union, (312) 408-1077.

Will bad credit prevent someone from getting a home?
There are numerous types of credit report problems (which may or may not be your fault) that would cause a lender to reject your application for a loan. Such problems include: missing a credit card payment, defaulting on a prior loan, filing for bankruptcy in the past seven years or not paying your taxes. Other black marks on a credit report include a judgment filed against you (perhaps for non-payment of spousal or child support) or any collection activity. If you feel that your credit report is wrong, experts say it's best to take it up with the organization or company claiming you owe them money. But if you've been late paying your bills, regroup by paying in full and on time for six months to a year to prove to the lender that the late payments were an aberration. You can order a copy of your own credit report by calling the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian at (800) 311-4769, Equifax at (800) 685-1111 and Trans Union at (312) 408-1077.


What if there is a credit reporting mistake on my report?
There is no fast and easy way to repair damaged credit that took months or years to occur. The law allows negative information to appear on an individual's credit record from seven to 10 years. Credit problems are the main reason would-be home buyers are denied a loan. The first step to clearing up your credit is to get a copy of your credit report to make sure that the negative credit information is indeed accurate. Some states now have mandatory timelines to respond to your inquiry or remove the blemish. For a copy of your report, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian at (800) 311-4769, Equifax at (800) 685-1111 and Trans Union at (312) 408-1077. The bureaus should provide instructions on how to read the report and how to dispute any inaccuracies it contains. If your credit report is correct, take care of any outstanding delinquent obligations first. Lenders usually won't consider any borrower who has had a delinquent payment in the past year.

What do I do if I get turned down for a loan?
Increasing numbers of loan applicants are finding ways to buy their own home despite past credit problems, a lack of a credit history or debt-to-income ratios that fall outside of traditionally acceptable ranges. Ask the lender for a full explanation, then appeal the decision in writing.

How do you clear up bad credit?
There is no fast and easy way to repair damaged credit that took months or years to occur. The law allows negative information to appear on an individual's credit record from 7 to 10 years. Now, many states have specific timeframes if you challenge a credit blemish. The first step is to check your existing credit record. Anyone can obtain copies of their own credit report free of charge if they have been turned down for credit recently. For a fee, people can request copies of their own credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian at (800) 311-4769, Equifax at (800) 685-1111 and Trans Union at (312) 408-1077. The bureau also should provide instructions on how to read the report and how to dispute any inaccuracies it contains. If the credit report is correct, take care of any outstanding delinquent obligations first.

Resources:
* "Rebuild Your Credit: Law Form Kit," Nolo Press, Berkeley, Calif.; 1993.

What exactly is bad credit?
There are numerous types of credit report problems that would cause a lender to reject your application for a loan. Such problems include: missing a credit card payment, defaulting on a prior loan, filing for bankruptcy in the past seven years or not paying your taxes. Other black marks on a credit report include a judgment filed against you (perhaps for non-payment of spousal or child support) or any collection activity. If you feel that your credit report is wrong, experts say it's best to take it up with the organization or company claiming you owe them money. But if you've been late paying your bills, regroup by paying in full and on time for six months to a year to prove to the lender that the late payments were an aberration. You can order a copy of your own credit report by calling the three major credit reporting agencies: Experian at (800) 311-4769, Equifax at (800) 685-1111 and Trans Union at (312) 408-1077.