You pay your debts on time to protect your credit.

But as one Calgary man found out, companies you don't owe can still impact your credit.

Robert Hill went to his bank to discuss a second mortgage. The bank told him he'd better pay off a $36,000 lien Sears put on his house first. Hill was dumbfounded.

"If someone owed me $36,000, I'd be sending them a letter about it, I'd be picking up the phone and calling them about it. None of that went on," he says.

Hill, who happened to have a Sears charge account tried to figure out what happened.

He says he called Sears.

But the service rep said his account was current and there was nothing in his file.

He pulled the title report on his home and called the law firm that filed the lien on Sears' behalf.

He says it didn't take long to figure out Sears' collection lawyers had the wrong Robert Hill.

Robert James Hill owed sears a $36,000 court judgment. But the lawyers found Robert Paul Hill's house and slapped a lien on it, even though his middle name, birth date and social insurance number don't match the debtor's.

Hill's lawyer wrote a letter to Sears' lawyers, who removed the lien from Hill's title.

But ensuring there were no lingering black marks on his credit bureau reports was another story.

Sears' lawyers sent Transunion and Equifax information about its mistake, but no one would give Hill what he wanted - assurance that his credit bureau reports were clean. Rather, Hill was told either he or his lawyer would have to do that.

A Sears spokesman declined an on-camera interview, but sent an email in response, saying: "Transunion and Equifax both confirmed to us that there is nothing in Mr. Hill's file regarding Sears that would negatively affect his credit file. We sent a letter to Mr. Hill confirming both these conversations and (Sears) will reach out to him with a goodwill gesture that we hope he finds satisfactory."

The Fair Trading Act and Credit and Personal Reports regulation ensure you have the right to find out what's in your credit file.

The agency must provide all the info in your file as of that date, where the information came from, unless it's obvious and who has received a copy of your report in the last six months.

When requested, a reporting agency must provide you with a report once a year at no charge.

If you believe an item isn't accurate or complete, you should write a statement of 100 words or less to protest the information. The agency must check the accuracy or completeness of the information and within 45 days it must confirm, correct, add to or delete the information in question.

If the agency corrects, adds to or deletes information, it must tell you and everyone who received your report within the last six months.

For tips on how to check your credit, go to the Service Alberta website.