Starting July 1, the three major credit agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — are dropping certain negative information from credit reports, including tax liens and civil judgments. According to FICO, out of the 200 million Americans with credit scores, 12 million consumers will see them increase in July. However, it may not be by much. FICO projects 11 million consumers will see a score increase of less than 20 points.
“It’s good news for the consumer, clearly, because the credit score is used almost ubiquitously across the world of consumer finance, and lenders use it, insurance companies use it, credit carders use it,” said John Ulzheimer, a credit specialist who has worked for Equifax and FICO. The companies are dropping this information following a settlement with lawmakers in more than 30 states. Attorneys general alleged liens and civil judgments were often attached to the wrong people, unfairly hurting their ability to access credit for a home, car or gym membership. This summer, if a lien or judgment does not match three of their four criteria of name, address, social security number or birthdate, it will no longer appear on a credit report. “Liens and judgments are in the major derogatory events category,” Ulzheimer said. “So we’re not pulling a splinter out by doing this, we’re fixing a broken arm by doing this.”
The Consumer Data Industry Association, which represents the big three credit reporting companies, said in a statement that the new standards “carefully balance the concerns of consumers and regulators about public record accuracy while at the same time ensuring that creditors can continue to rely on credit report data.”
Lenders, however, will face the new challenge of how to balance consumers’ need for credit versus the banks’ need to accurately assess who is likely to pay the loan back.
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“This has lenders concerned because now they are going to be essentially fooled into thinking that this consumer or applicant is going to be a better credit risk than they really are,” Ulzheimer said. This forthcoming change comes after FICO’s announcement last year that it has begun using wireless and cable bill payment history, along with utilities payments and background checks, to determine credit scores. The FICO XD aimed at individuals without a credit history and will also run from 300 to 850.
Small business owner Katie Brown, 28, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida hopes it will help her get a mortgage. She has a near-perfect financial record but no credit history.
“I have a consistent income. I pay my bills on time but because I don’t have several lines of credit, I’m still in a position where if I wanted to buy a home, I would have to pay for it in cash this moment, which is a lofty ambition,” she told NBC News. Brown, who has no black marks on her record, is hopeful she can demonstrate she is worth the risk. She has also signed up for a credit card with limited credit to prove she can pay off a short term loan.
“At my age, I’m looking forward to buying my first home in the next few years,” Brown said.