Can an Old, Unpaid Bill Keep Me From Getting an Apartment?


Searching for a good place to live is tricky enough to make anyone, even a person without past financial problems, hate the process. So to find an apartment that’s affordable, has the features that meet your needs and is in a decent location, only to have the landlord hold up your application because of an old item on your credit report — well, it’s frustrating, to say the least. A reader recently found themselves in this situation:

I have a PG&E bill from 2010 that is on my credit report, but PG&E show it as a discharge and are not asking for payment. I need to clear this up before my new landlord will allow me to move into a new place. If I secure a settlement for this can I request them to remove this from my credit report?

We put the question to John C. Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, a partner. Here’s what he said.

“I don’t know if I would attempt to secure a settlement. The amount has been written off,” Heath wrote in an email to The reader may want to check the statute of limitations in their state, because the debt may no longer be enforceable, Heath added.

This may take some explaining to your landlord. “I would speak with the landlord and see if they would be willing to overlook a [six-year-old] debt. A lot can change in a six year period,” Heath wrote.

Negative information on credit reports (like a charged-off debt) generally remains there for seven years. It’s important to remember that this goes for paid, unpaid and settled debts alike — so paying off an old debt doesn’t remove the negative history from the record. However, if you feel information on your credit report is inaccurate or unfair, you can challenge it with the credit bureaus and data furnishers reporting it to them. You can do this on your own (you can go here to learn more about disputing errors on your credit report), or you could consider hiring a reputable credit repair professional to help you. To keep tabs on your credit and any negative items affecting it, you can get two free credit scores with regular updates from

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