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The credit report is something that is maintained by the credit bureaus. There are three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States of America. These credit bureaus will make available your credit reports to all financial institutions and government agencies that request the same. Each individual is eligible for one credit report per year.
The fair credit reporting act is an act that regulates the agencies which report the credit status of an individual. A few of the very important points of this act are that the agencies must maintain accuracy of the reports and if a consumer files a complaint, steps must be taken to ensure quick and hassle free solutions. They must provide one credit report every year at no cost to the consumer. And negative reports should never be kept on file for longer than seven years.
These credit bureaus do not directly deal with the companies that furnish information about the consumer. They will instead use a third part system to resolve consumer disputes. This is the reason why there will be enormous delays if you want to file a complaint or resolve a dispute. It can take months to get errors cleared from your record and all this while you will reap the misfortune of these erroneous reports by not being able to get loans or getting loans with extremely high interest rates. And if you get the error removed from one credit bureau, you still have to deal with the other two.
In most of the states, you will not be dealing directly with the credit bureaus, but instead all the customer relations are handled by a third party. This is the case in Texas where Equifax lets all its consumer disputes to be handled by CSC credit services. This causes an extra delay in Texas while dealing with erroneous reports.
Keeping all this in mind it is better to get your credit report more than once a year. The first report that you get is free, but every other report will cost you $9 per company. Its always better to get at least three or more reports per year. This way you can locate any errors if present and file a complaint for quick resolution. If you wait till you go out looking for a home loan, you will end up in deep trouble. And by the time you resolve the dispute, the home might be out of the market. When you file for your report, remember that it takes around 7 weeks to reach you. But then if you do not want to deal with lost mail or delayed filings, you can always go for a monthly credit monitoring service. These agencies will allow online access to your credit report at all time.