I think they can take up to 7 to 10 years but I am not positive. If you only have one or two late payments over a long period of time paying on time I have found that you can dispute them right on this site by looking at your credit report which gives you the option to dispute but only in Transunion. I have done this before when I had a long history of paying on time and was late on one payment. There is a box that asks you questions as to why you are disputing something and one box says I was never late making a payment. I have checked this box before and they took it off my report. You can give an explanation but I think maybe when they see that you were on time all the other times they may not even bother asking the creditor and take it off. That is my guess though.