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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 8:12 am | Fair 51º


Reyne Stapelmann: Door Opens to Possibility of Credit Reporting Agency Reform

On several occasions, some of my buyers had problems qualifying for a loan because of inaccurate credit information. A couple of issues that showed up on the reports were a hospital bill  that had been paid and unpaid bills that belonged to a relative who had the same name but a different Social Security number.

The grueling process to correct these reports may take months of multiple letters, proof of identities and lots of frustration not only for my buyers but for anyone with these types of credit report errors. Many have to resort to hiring an attorney for any resolution.

Some of the frustration with incorrect reports may come to an end in the future due to a settlement between New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the nation’s three leading national credit reporting agencies.

According to a press release on March 9, “Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York announced a settlement with the nation’s three leading national credit reporting agencies, Experian Information Solutions Inc., ('Experian'), Equifax Information Services LLC ('Equifax') and TransUnion LLC ('TransUnion'). The agreement means the companies will improve credit report accuracy; increase the fairness and efficacy of the procedures for resolving consumer disputes of credit report errors; and protect consumers from unfair harm to their credit histories due to medical debt. All three credit reporting agencies worked cooperatively with the office to develop these critical reforms.”

The agreement “improves the dispute resolution process, institutes a 180-day waiting period before medical debt will be reported on a consumer’s credit report, increases the visibility of AnnualCreditReport.com, requires the CRAs (Credit Reporting Agencies) to provide a second free credit report to consumers who experience a change in their credit report as a result of initiating a dispute, prohibits the CRAs from including debts from lenders who have been identified by the Attorney General as operating in violation of New York lending laws, will implement policies to monitor CRAs performance and take corrective action against those that fail to comply with their obligations and requires the CRAs to expand the consumer education materials available on AnnualCreditReport.com.”

Though this agreement is, currently, only for New York, it definitely opens up the possibility for reform in the rest of the nation. All Californians would benefit from an initiative like this, and California Attorney General Kamala Harris can be contacted at the Attorney General's Office by clicking here or by mail at California Department of Justice, Attn: Public Inquiry Unit, P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550.

Attorney Schneiderman’s Tips for Consumers

» You can get a free credit report from each of the CRAs once each year. To get your free report, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877.322.8228.

» You can request all three credit reports at the same time, or you can request the reports separately. Spreading out the reports permits you to monitor your credit over the course of the year.

» It is important to review your credit report regularly in order to check for errors. If you find an error, you have the right to dispute the error with the CRA and with the company that provided the information. You have the right to submit copies of documents that support your dispute. You may submit such documents to the CRAs online via the CRAs’ websites.

» Watch out for websites that claim to offer “free” credit reports, but require you to subscribe to their fee-based services in order to obtain the credit report.

Reyne Stapelmann is a broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, California Properties and the 2015 president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. Contact her at [email protected] or 805.705.4353. The opinions expressed are her own.

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