When lenders look at a credit application, they must follow the law. 

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits certain acts by lenders offering credit.  Lenders cannot deny you credit based on your sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or receipt of child support, social security or public assistance such as OWF, SSI or unemployment compensation.  You have the right to have this reliable income considered like any other income.  Creditors may ask for this information (except religion).  But they may not use it against you when deciding whether to grant you credit.

Companies that regularly offer credit must follow the law.  This includes banks, loan companies, stores, credit card companies and credit unions.  Everyone who is part of the decision to grant credit must follow this law.  Businesses applying for credit also are protected by this law.
Generally, a creditor may not request information about a spouse or require the signature of a spouse or any other co-signer except in limited circumstances. 

If you are denied credit, you have a legal right to know why.  The creditor must give you a written notice within thirty (30) days with the specific reasons.  If you asked for credit orally, do not be discouraged from submitting a written application.Insist on a written statement of the reasons for any denial.
Take a witness with you if you think you will have problems in applying for credit.The creditor has no right to force your witness to co-sign for you.  The witness should not co-sign.

A creditor must tell you if a denial of credit is based on information from a credit reporting agency.  The creditor must give you the name and address of that agency.The credit reporting agency must let you know what information is in its files.

A credit agency may keep bankruptcy records for ten (10) years.  Debts discharged in bankruptcy should be listed as “discharged” with a zero balance. Records of other debts may be kept for seven (7) years.
If you think the information in the credit agency’s files is wrong, ask the credit agency to investigate.  You may submit a short written statement saying why you believe the information is wrong.  The credit agency must note your dispute in future credit reports. The credit agency must send out a corrected report to anyone who checked your credit within the past six (6) months.



This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.
Prepared by: Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Info Updated February 2012.