Can a Contractor File a Mechanics Lien If They Didn’t Finish the Work?

September 04, 2023
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When you think of construction, the excitement of a new home or a revamped workspace comes to mind. However, sometimes disagreements emerge, leading property owners and contractors to a legal crossroads. One pressing question often arises: Can a contractor file a mechanics lien if they didn’t finish the work? Let’s dive into the intricacies of the matter with reference to Illinois law.

Understanding the Mechanics Lien

A mechanics lien is a legal claim that a contractor or supplier can file against a property to secure payment for work performed on the property.

A contractor is someone who directly works with the property owner, while a subcontractor works under the contractor and doesn’t have a direct contract with the property owner. Material suppliers are also considered subcontractors. The key difference is that subcontractors need to give additional notice to enforce their lien.

In Illinois, a contractor can file a mechanics lien for the value of the work they have performed. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re considering filing a mechanics lien in Illinois:

  • You must have a valid contract with the property owner.
  • You must have provided labor or materials to the project.
  • You must have not been paid for your work.
  • You must file the mechanics lien within the required time period.

Mechanic’s liens must be filed within strict time limits as per the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act. Contractors have up to four months after completing work to file a lien that will be valid against both the original and any future property owners. If filed between four months and two years, the lien only applies to the original owner. Subcontractors need to give notice of their lien claim within 90 days of their last day of work. All liens expire if not legally enforced within two years, and these deadlines are non-negotiable.

The Illinois Mechanics Lien Act (IMLA) sets forth the specific requirements for filing a mechanics lien in Illinois. The IMLA also provides a number of defenses that a property owner can raise against a mechanics lien claim. While the unfinished nature of work is a significant factor, several other aspects come into play:

  • Timeliness: Mechanics liens come with strict timelines. For instance, in many cases, a lien needs to be filed within a specific number of months from the last date of work.
  • Contractual Obligations: The exact terms of the contract can greatly influence a contractor’s right to file a lien.

If a contractor files a mechanics lien, it becomes a cloud on the title to the property. This means that the property owner cannot sell or refinance the property without first paying off the mechanics lien. The mechanics lien will also be a public record, which means that anyone who searches the property records will be able to see it.

The property owner has a few options if a contractor files a mechanics lien against their property. They can:

  • Pay the contractor the amount of the lien.
  • File a lawsuit against the contractor to challenge the lien.
  • Request a hearing with the county clerk to have the lien removed.

A property owner can raise a number of defenses against a mechanics lien claim. Some of the most common defenses include:

  • The contractor did not have a valid contract with the property owner.
  • The contractor did not provide labor or materials to the project.
  • The contractor was paid for their work.
  • The lien was not filed within the required time period.
  • The lien is not properly recorded.

When to Seek Legal Counsel

Navigating the realm of mechanics liens in Illinois, especially when unfinished work is in the mix, can be complex. Property owners might question the legitimacy of a lien, especially if they believe the contractor didn’t finish the work.

At the same time, contractors need to ensure they’re safeguarding their interests and getting paid for the value they’ve added to a project. That’s where Grzymala Law Offices comes in, offering invaluable guidance and representation in these matters.

While construction endeavors bring a sense of rejuvenation and progress, they come with their share of potential disagreements and conflicts. Understanding the nuances of the mechanics lien in Illinois, particularly when they didn’t finish the work, is paramount for both contractors and property owners.

Whether you are looking for an Illinois mechanics lien lawyer or have questions related to the Illinois mechanics lien act, Grzymala Law Offices can provide clarity and counsel tailored to your unique situation.

For peace of mind and assured legal standing, don’t tread these waters alone. Let Grzymala Law Offices guide you through the labyrinth of Illinois construction law. Take that step today and consult with a knowledgeable mechanic lien attorney who can offer expert guidance tailored to your situation.

Secure your interests. Protect your investments. Reach out to Grzymala Law Offices today.