Like other states, Illinois has a specific law setting out how mechanics liens are supposed to work in Illinois.
To review, contractors and subcontractors have a right to a mechanic’s lien for the cost of their parts and labor if they build or make improvements to property. The law also gives a contractor the right to charge 10% interest on overdue bills and, in some cases, the right to recover their attorney fees and other costs.
In theory, the law is designed to make sure that contractors get paid for the value of their work without having to go through a super lengthy process of collecting money from someone who is not going to pay.
These liens are particularly worrisome to homeowners and commercial investors for a number of reasons. For instance, they apply without regard to whether it is the owner’s fault that the contractor or subcontractor did not get paid.
Also, they can come as a complete surprise to the owner, especially if, for example, a prior owner did not pay for the work but then sold the property. In the worst case, an innocent owner can have their property sold out from under them in a lien foreclosure.
Contractors must strictly comply with the Mechanics Lien Act
The deadlines and other requirements of the Mechanics Lien Act are complicated. Still, subcontractors and contractors who want to record and then enforce their lien must follow the law to the letter, even to the details.
If they do not, then the owner of the land may have legal grounds to challenge the validity of the lien.
Speaking more broadly, a contractor can only enforce a mechanic’s lien on amounts that someone justly owes the contractor. A landowner dealing with a lien will want to investigate and evaluate its options carefully so as to determine if any defense on the grounds that the contractor performed defective work is available.
Other defenses may be available as well, so an owner should consider speaking to an experience construction law attorney about their options.