Month: October 2015

Applying for an Apartment


Finding an apartment can be quite the process. With demand rising and everyone looking for specific elements in a new home, you want to ensure you are prepared to apply for an apartment when you finally find the perfect place that meets all of your qualifications.

Follow these tips to ensure you avoid rejection when applying for a new apartment:

Be prepared 

Before going to a showing, you’ll want to be prepared to apply right away. Ask the landlord or real estate professional showing the property what you need to apply for the apartment if you find it meets your needs. Knowing this ahead of time will save you a great deal of time and better ensure your application for the place is approved.

Ask about an application fee and whether you need to provide proof of income before looking at an apartment, suggested Apartment Guide. Preparing for these steps ahead of time will increase the likelihood of you securing the apartment of your dreams.

In addition, you will want to ensure you understand how competitive your local market is. If an area is in high demand, there may be more thorough checks or more substantial necessary qualifications for available units. Know these before you begin your search, and you will better equipped for the process and increase the likelihood of application approval.

Background check 

Landlords want responsible tenants who will not cause issues. For this reason, many conduct a criminal background check. You must authorize the completion of a background check before it is started.

If you have any felonies on your record, you should be given the opportunity to explain what happened. Typically there is a section on the physical application that allows applicants to do so.

Come with a healthy credit score 

Credit scores matter a great deal and applying for a new apartment requires a solid credit history. Obtain a copy of your score, and try to improve it as much as possible. Pay bills on time and in full whenever possible.

According to, you’ll also want to look out for errors and incorrect information present on your credit report. These errors can impact your score and leave you with a much lower score, which may result in rental application rejection.

If you don’t have credit or your current score is too low, SFGate suggested that you consider asking someone to cosign the rental agreement. Ask someone who you know is responsible, has a good credit history and most importantly, will agree to be a cosigner.

Provide references 

Typically, a landlord will request that you provide your rental history and the contact information of any previous landlords. This helps them gather whether you are a responsible and courteous tenant who has demonstrated decency in the past. noted you may also need to provide the specific dates you lived in different apartment buildings. Try to include this with the information you provide when applying for a new apartment.

In addition, you may be asked to provide additional references. Have a list of friends or family members who can accurately speak to a potential landlord about your character and dependability.

Consider pets 

If you have a pet, you will want to ensure ahead of time that your furry friend is allowed in the space. In many instances, there is an application process specifically designed for pets. Make sure you know what is expected and prepare a resume for your dog, cat, bird or other creature to let the landlord know your pet won’t disrupt the peace or cause damage to the apartment.

According to Apartment Guide, providing a landlord with references can help a great deal when applying for an apartment. This allows landlords to view your pet in a positive light. If you have a previous landlord who will vouch for your pet, you and your furry friend are less likely to be rejected.

While finding an apartment that allows pets may seem like a daunting task, remember many times landlords will advertise that they allow pets in their units. When looking for a new apartment, only seek out properties that explicitly state they welcome animals.

Ask about fees and deposits 

Whether you have a pet or not, you may have some sort of move-in fee or security deposit. Make sure you know what you’ll need to pay prior to applying. You don’t want to think you have enough money to cover the costs associated with moving to a new apartment and then find out you need to provide $1,000 for a security deposit.

Signing the lease 

If your application is approved, then you can sign the lease and move into the new place. However, before you sign anything, make sure you have a complete understanding of the agreement. You want to fully understand the policies and whether you will be responsible for covering the cost of utilities, parking or other expenses related to the apartment.

Keep a copy for your records so you can reference it easily if any questions arise while living in the space.

Applying to live in a new apartment requires research on your end as well as preparation. By coming prepared with materials and ensuring your credit score is healthy, you can better ensure you will qualify for the apartment that is right for you and your unique needs.

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How Long Can Negative Items Be Reported on My Credit Report?


One of the most common questions consumers have about their credit reports is “How long can a negative item stay on my credit report?” There are, of course, a number of reasons that items could be removed from your report, but there is a maximum amount of time most items can stay on your report under the law. These laws are designed to prevent negative items from remaining on your report indefinitely, hurting your credit profile for decades. Knowing the law can help you monitor your report and know when certain items should be removed from your reports based on their age.

The exact length that an item can stay on your report depends on that item’s individual characteristics, but there are some general guidelines to help you analyze your own report. Beyond all the details, most negative items can stay on your reports for seven years. The seven-year duration is measured from the date on which the negative instance occurred, not from the last time the account was paid or other related dates. For example, a 30-day late payment from an account with ABC, Inc. can be reported for seven years from the date the payment was late, not from the last time you paid that account. The key date is the date the account became delinquent.

Here are some specific types of items and how long they can be reported:

  • Late Payments (30-day late, 60-day late, etc.) – seven years
  • Charged-off Accounts and Collections – seven years (plus 180 days in some cases)
  • Judgments – seven years from the date the court issued the judgment (some states have specifically longer statutes of limitations that may extend the maximum duration beyond seven years)
  • Tax Liens – if the lien has been paid, it may be reported for seven years. An unpaid lien may be reported indefinitely.
  • Chapter 7 and 13 Bankruptcies – ten years from the date of filing

Most other negative items can be reported for seven years, but remember that this is not an exhaustive list. Federal laws exist that govern how long many specific items can be reported, and there are often exceptions to the rule that may extend the maximum reporting period.

It is important to remember that there is no mandatory minimum reporting period that items have to be reported. In fact, there is no requirement that creditors have to report negative items at all. It is vital to know the laws that protect you as a consumer. Know how long items can be reported on your profile so your credit report can be fair and accurate.

Daniel Woolston is an associate attorney for Lexington Law Firm. Hewas born in Houston, Texas and raised in Sugarland, Texas. He received his B.S. in Political Science at Brigham Young University and his Juris Doctorate at Arizona State University.

A former prosecutor, Daniel has conducted numerous jury trials and hundreds of other court hearings. He has experience in legal writing, research, and general oral and written advocacy. Daniel especially enjoys being a voice for those that are often forgotten in the legal system. He is licensed to practice in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix, Arizona office.

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3 Apps to Help You Budget


Budgeting is not an easy task, but it is necessary if you plan to keep your finances in order and repair credit. It is easy to make mistakes while budgeting, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. In a time when most people are turning to smartphones to keep track of daily schedules and communication, there is no reason that budgeting can’t be part of that list.

With the rise in smartphone usage, developers have taken to creating apps for just about everything. So if you are having a difficult time with your budgeting, or keeping track of your finances, then check out the app store and find something that works for you.

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Negative Items on a Credit Report: Defined



Credit reporting is complicated to the average consumer, and the barrage of negativity can seem overwhelming. Understanding these citations and their consequences is the first step to avoiding future damage. Take some time to review the information below. The result will help you on the path to credit health.

  • When debt outweighs resources, many people are forced to file for bankruptcy. A few reasons to file include chronically overdue accounts, long-term loss of income and uncooperative lenders. There are two main types of personal bankruptcy:
    • Chapter 13: Known as the “wage earner’s” bankruptcy, Chapter 13 is for consumers who are employed but cannot meet minimum debt payments. Under trustee supervision, Chapter 13 filers usually have three to five years to repay qualifying debts based on a restructured plan. A Chapter 13 citation will remain on your credit report for up to seven years.
    • Chapter 7: Chapter 7 bankruptcy is often a last resort. When you are deep in debt and have no way to repay, discharge and asset liquidation is usually the next step. Although many people believe Chapter 7 offers a clean slate, not every debt qualifies for Chapter 7 protection. Eligibility to file is based on:
      • Analysis of your bills and assets
      • Determining which debts must be paid
      • Determining which assets to use to cover unqualified debts

A Chapter 7 citation will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Regardless of type, filing for bankruptcy can cause serious credit score damage. Talk to a professional before considering this step.

  • Charge Off. When you haven’t paid your bill for 180 days or more, your creditor will usually write off your debt on their taxes as a loss, also known as a charge off. While it may seem like your debt is forgotten, the remaining balance is usually sold to a collection agency that will attempt to secure payment. A charge off will drastically hinder your credit reports’ payment history, causing damage for up to seven years.

  • Civil Claim. If you fail to pay a debt, your creditor may file a lawsuit against you, resulting in a civil claim citation on your credit report. While the citation may be updated as “satisfied” once the issue is resolved, it is likely to remain on your credit report for seven years.
  • The star of financial stability is credit, or the act of using borrowed cash to fund purchases. There are two main types of credit:
    • When an account has a maximum limit and no payoff date, it is revolving credit. It provides flexibility when it comes to spending and repaying debts either all at once or in minimum increments, carrying the remainder over from month to month. Common types of revolving accounts include credit cards and home equity loans.
    • An account with a fixed payment period is an installment loan. Monthly payments are identical from month to month, allowing predictability when it comes to budgeting. Common types of installment credit include auto loans, student loans and 30-year mortgages.

When used correctly, these accounts have the power to boost your score. When used carelessly, they will accomplish the opposite.

  • Homeownership can make or break a credit report. Failing to pay your mortgage will result in foreclosure proceedings, often resulting in legal action and eviction and definitely resulting in long-term credit damage. A foreclosure will devastate your credit score for up to seven years, and you’ll have a difficult time securing another mortgage in the meantime.
  • Included in Bankruptcy. Discharging debt in bankruptcy doesn’t erase it from your credit report. In fact, qualifying accounts will close with the notation, “included in bankruptcy,” a distinction that will remain for seven years. Unfortunately, the damage to your credit score will be significant.

  • Unpaid credit bills, child support, property taxes and utilities: all of these are examples of potential litigation and credit score damage. A judgment issued against you is public record and will remain on your credit report for up to seven years. Depending on its severity, a judgment can shave hundreds of points off your credit score.
  • 30-day Late Payment. A 30-day late payment occurs when you fail to pay your bill at the end of the month, i.e., after 30 days. Popular myth suggests that a 30-day late payment will not affect your credit, however, even a small infraction can cause damage if your creditor chooses to report it to the bureaus, especially if the balance is outstanding. This type of situation could hurt your credit score by 100 points or more. To make matters worse, a delinquency –no matter how brief—can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. Play it safe: pay your bills on time.
  • 60-day Late Payment. Two failed payment periods results in a 60-day delinquency. Failure to pay your bills for two consecutive months will almost certainly cause drastic damage to your credit score by dampening your payment history and even your credit utilization ratio. You’ll also face fees and a potentially higher interest rate.
  • 90-day Late Payment. Three failed payment periods places you in the 90-days late category. By now, your credit has suffered significant damage and you are sinking deeper into debt.
  • 120+day Late Payment. Four failed payment periods places you in dangerous territory. An outstanding debt of 120 days or more is likely to move into collection status, a consequence that can cause long-term credit damage and reflect poorly on your ability to manage credit and finances.
  • When an account is chronically overdue—usually 180 days or more—it is listed as a collection. This occurs when your lender redirects the account to their in-house collection department or sells the debt to another agency for a fraction of its worth. A representative will contact you and attempt to recoup the remaining debt.

Collection accounts are serious in the world of credit, causing as much damage as a bankruptcy citation in some cases.

  • A lien is a public record attached to a mortgage when you fail to pay a creditor for goods or services. Placing a lien on your home prevents you from taking out a second mortgage or home equity loan. If you decide to sell, your creditor must be repaid by any profit earned. There are two common types of liens:
    • Judgment lien: When a creditor wins a court case against you, they may place a lien on your home until they collect payment.
    • Tax lien: Failure to pay federal, state or local taxes can result in a property lien against your home until the debt is repaid or settled.

A lien on your credit report will drastically affect your payment history, which accounts for 35 percent of your credit score. Do your best to resolve the issue quickly.

  • A settled or closed account may offer finality, but its nature is another story. Creditors may ask the bureaus to list your account as negative if you settled a debt for less than the total balance or your account was closed due to reckless behavior. Although it’s difficult to quantify the effects of a negative account, it won’t help you on the journey to credit improvement.
  • Partial Payment. When debt is overwhelming your income, it’s sometimes beneficial to contact your creditor to ask for a reduced payment plan. Although this strategy will help you find the right path, the result can add a “partial payment” notation to your credit report. This action is viewed in a light similar to charge offs, collection and bankruptcy accounts, often damaging your score by 100 points or more.

  • Overdue accounts cause more than credit score damage. Failure to pay for a financed item, e.g., a car can lead to repossession, leaving you with no transportation and a seven year dark spot on your credit reports. These consequences are likely to make it difficult for you to find a similar loan in the future.
  • Settlement Accepted. Negotiating debt reduction may save you money, but settling an account for less than the full balance is a sizable blunder. A Settlement Accepted notation will hurt your payment history, lower your credit score and increase your risk level when it comes to future loans.

  • Account in Credit Counseling. When a debt is repaid with the help of a financial management company to help you negotiate a lower interest rate or payment period, an “Account in Credit Counseling” notation may appear on your credit report. The good news is, some cases may not result in credit damage, but there are no guarantees.

  • Some debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. When you fail to pay accounts like student loans, child support or taxes, a judge can order wage garnishment to collect payment. A garnishment will lower your income but will not appear on your credit report. That said, you won’t escape without consequences. When you apply for a new loan like a mortgage, you are required to reveal all financial obligations, including a wage garnishment.

  • Late Payment. A late payment is bad news for your credit, no matter how severe the delinquency may be. 35 percent of your credit score depends on a positive payment history, and forgetting or even ignoring past due amounts is likely to haunt you for up to seven years.

  • An account you don’t recognize could indicate a few things:
    • A change in incorporation, e.g., a company name change
    • Mistaken identity
    • Identity theft and fraud

Alert the credit bureaus of an unknown account immediately. A foreign influence could cause unnecessary stress on your credit reports.

  • An inquiry is listed on your credit report when you allow a third party to view your information. Although one or two inquiries will not hurt your credit, multiple inquiries can portray you in a negative light. Avoid credit damage by practicing discretion. Apply for new accounts on an as-needed basis only.
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How Divorce Can Impact Your Credit

shutterstock_268679894Many individuals find that their finances and credit are in shambles after going through a divorce. While the act of getting divorced doesn’t directly impact your credit, it could have indirect effects that damage your credit.

Courts issue divorce decrees to finalize a divorce. Divorce decrees generally divide a couple’s debts and obligations and assign responsibility to one spouse or the other. But if your ex-spouse fails to pay a certain loan or account as ordered, the divorce decree won’t help if the account is still shared by both parties. If the debt is joint, each party is responsible for the debt — regardless of the divorce decree. The creditor can still go after each party for payment. This is because the financial institution that issued the loan, or the creditor that each party is responsible to pay, is not a party to the divorce decree. The divorce decree does not break the contract you signed to pay your creditors.

Not only can creditors try to collect from both parties of a joint account, they can place negative marks on the credit reports of both users of the account for missed payments. Negative marks for late or missed payments are part of your payment history, which accounts for the largest chunk of a FICO credit score. A negative mark can stay on your credit for up to seven years. That’s why it is better to make a payment now on a joint account (even if your ex-spouse is responsible to pay under the divorce decree) rather than suffer the consequences of a seven-year negative mark on your credit score. You can always try to collect the money in court later from your ex-spouse.

To avoid a possible credit crisis, here are a few steps you can take to protect your credit in a divorce.

  1. Identify all joint accounts and remove one name from the account. This could include credit card accounts, utility bills, car payments, and mortgages, among other things. The party responsible for paying should be the only party whose name appears on the account. If your name is on an account, you are responsible to pay it. This may require a refinance for a mortgage, but ensuring that accounts are no longer joint will prevent damage to your credit in the long run.
  2. Make payments if you are still on the account, even if you’re not supposed to pay. If an account is joint and it looks like your ex-spouse cannot make the payment on time or at all, make the payment yourself (even if the divorce decree says you’re not responsible). You can try to collect the money from your ex-spouse later. It is better to prevent a negative mark on your credit than to try to remedy the situation after the negative mark has appeared.
  3. Sign up for a credit monitoring service to avoid identity theft. Armed with your social security number, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name, an ex-spouse could open new accounts and accumulate debt in your name. To avoid this scenario, sign up for a credit monitoring service that will alert you to any new accounts or unusual activity. Also, change your passwords if your ex-spouse has online access to your accounts.

Going through a divorce is stressful. If your name remains on a joint account and a payment is missed or late, a negative mark could remain on your credit for up to seven years. Take charge of your credit and make sure that your name is removed from all accounts that you are not responsible for paying. That way, you can try to avoid further stress.

Cynthia Thaxton is an associate attorney for Lexington Law Firm. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic and graduated summa cum laude.
After graduating from college, she worked in Abu Dhabi as a paralegal for two years. Cynthia then returned to Virginia to attend law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. While in law school, she was a law clerk at the State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser.
Cynthia has experience in corporate law, international transactions, real estate, HOA law and creditors’ rights and she is admitted to practice law in Utah. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing with her husband, running, and going on hikes with her Labrador retriever, Shep.
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