What Is a Charge-off?

At OakTree Law, our Los Angeles bankruptcy attorneys assist clients with various financial matters. If you think having high credit card debt or missing a credit card payment is bad, having a charge-off on your credit report is worse. A charge-off occurs when youโ€™ve missed several months of credit card payments. The creditor has essentially given up on collecting the debt and written it off as a loss.

What Happens If a Charge-off Appears on My Credit Report?

While the creditor considers the debt uncollectible, you are still obligated to pay it. A credit card issuer may lower your credit limit or cancel your account, while new credit card applications may be denied. Your credit score will already have been significantly damaged by the time this happens.

A creditor can take collection actions within a timeframe defined by the statute of limitations where you or the financial institution are based. The time period ranges from three to seven years to as much as indefinitely. The institution, outside collection agencies, and legal entities may be involved. A charge-off will also remain on your credit report for seven years.

Federal Regulations

Creditors in the United States must charge-off revolving credit accounts after 180 days, while installment loans must be charged-off after 120 days of delinquency. Section 166 of the Internal Revenue Code requires such declarations to support tax deductions for bad debts. If a bankโ€™s charge-off number rises, regulators may scrutinize the bankโ€™s finances, place operating restrictions on the bank, or close it down.

How Do I Remove a Charge-off from My Credit Report?

To deal with a charge-off, itโ€™s best to handle the situation with the original creditor, even if a third-party debt collector is involved. Only the creditor can remove a charge-off from your credit reportโ€”if you pay off the debt you owe. A collection agency has no control over what your creditors report to credit bureaus, but you can:

  • Call the creditor: Calculate how much you can pay and try to negotiate with the creditor, explaining youโ€™d like to make payment arrangements and have the charged-off status removed from your report. At this stage, itโ€™s important to be professional and polite. Making excuses or blaming the creditor wonโ€™t help you.
  • Send a letter: You can also negotiate by sending a pay for delete letter, which asks the creditor to remove the charge-off account from your credit report in exchange for full payment of your debt. First, find the name and address of a higher-up employee in the company, so the letter gets into the right hands.
  • Get an agreement in writing: If youโ€™re lucky enough to have a creditor agree to remove the charge-off, have your correspondence send you a copy of the agreement (on company letterhead) or get that personโ€™s name, address, and phone number. Send them a copy of the agreement via certified mail to get a return receipt, and request they sign and return a copy of the letter to you.

Start payments once you have received an agreement in writing. When the debt is paid off, check your credit report to make sure the charge-off was removed.

However, if the creditor is unresponsive or the negotiating process fails, you may have to take things a step further. Bankruptcy attorneys at OakTree Law can assist you in finding solutions, such as bankruptcy or other alternatives such as loan modification (if this applies to your case). To learn more, call 888-791-9510 or request a free evaluation from us today.