You may start out by wondering, “What is a mechanics lien? Does it have to do with my car?” In some states, yes, but in Illinois, the answer is no. Under Illinois law, if you have performed various types of services for a residential or commercial project, you may be entitled to take action against your client by recording a lien against the property on which you worked. Some of the services that are covered include building, supplying material, landscaping, plumbing, HVAC, concrete and excavating work. If you are doing work on a new construction residence, an existing residence, or a commercial project and you are not paid what you are owed by the owner or the general contractor, you could be protected by the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).
This Act has very specific and strict requirements with which you must comply, and it treats subcontractors and contractors differently. If you are a contractor, you have 4 months from your last day worked on the project (for contract work, not punch list work) to record this type of lien so that you have what the Act refers to as priority over others who may have an interest in the property (i.e., a bank with a mortgage). As a subcontractor, you also have to comply with the 4 month deadline, but the Act imposes additional deadlines on you for certain notices that need to be sent. For instance, a subcontractor must send a 90-Day Notice within 90 days of its last day worked to have priority. If a subcontractor is doing work on a single-family owner-occupied home, it must send a notice within 60 days of first doing work on the property. Each notice and the lien itself have specific requirements as to what needs to be contained within them to be valid.
The advantage of the Act is that if you are owed money for a service as described above or otherwise covered under the Act, you can put yourself in a position to take ownership of the property to recover what you are owed. The disadvantage is that the Act must be strictly complied with to ensure that you are able to reap the benefits allowed by the Act. It is very important that you discuss with an attorney the ins and outs of what your obligation is as a contractor or subcontractor so that you can ensure that your rights are fully protected. On the flip side, if you are a homeowner or lender who is faced with a lien being recorded on a parcel in which you own or otherwise have an interest, it is equally important that you consult with an attorney. If you find yourself on either side of a lien, give us a call at (815) 459-8800 to discuss your options. Remember, time is of the essence with these matters, so call right away as soon as you think you are faced with the need to do a lien or to challenge a lien.