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Illinois Mechanics Liens - Private Projects

What is a mechanics lien?

An Illinois Mechanics Lien is an intangible right in property.  A mechanics lien acts as a cloud on the owners’ title and prevents the owner from selling or refinancing the property until the lien claim is resolved.

Note that mechanics liens cannot attached to government owned property such as public schools, city parks, or municipal facilities.  For those unpaid contractors, they are able to file a lien against the funds owed from the pubic entity to the general contractor pursuant to Section 23 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act (770 ILCS 60/23).

What law governs mechanics liens?

In Illinois, mechanics liens are governed by the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act, 770 ILCS 60/1, et seq..

Who is entitled to file a mechanics lien?

Generally, if you are a contractor or material supplier who has furnished labor or materials that were used to improve a property and you have not been paid, you may be entitled to file a mechanics lien clam against the property you worked on.

What is the difference between a general contractor and subcontractor?

For purposes of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act, a general contractor is one who has a contract with the owner or tenant.  Even a plumber can be a general contractor if its agreement is with the owner.

A subcontractor is a party who has its contract for improvements to the project with a general contractor.

What are the requirements to file a lien claim?

In order to be able to file a mechanics lien claim, you must  have a valid contract for improvements with the owner. You must perform under the contract.  The labor or materials you provided must be lienable and were used to improve the real estate.  Finally, you must be owed money.

What type of work is lienable?

Generally anything done to permanently improve the property will entitle a contractor to make a lien claim such as electrical work, plumbing, building, excavating, carpentry, HVAC, flooring, and landscaping.  Recent changes in the Act now allow liens for rental equipment used in the construction of a project.

What information do I need to know in order to prepare the mechanics lien claim?

You need to review title work to determine the current owner of record, the identities of any other lien claimants or mortgagees, the PIN and legal description of the property you want to lien. You also need to calculate your balance due and determine your last date of furnishing at the project in order to be able to assert a mechanics lien claim.

A subcontractor has additional requirements in that it must also serve a notice of its claim for lien.

When is the last date of furnishing?

The deadline to serve and record a claim for mechanics lien depends on the last day you furnished labor or materials at the project.

Generally, the last date of furnishing is the last date the contractor worked at the site.  Trivial work such as repairs or minor changes, maintenance, warranty work, or punch list work will not extend the time for filing a lien.   However substantial work done at the request or demand of the owner, will extend the date of completion.

Change orders under the contract may also extend the time as long as it is related to the original contract work.

What does the mechanics lien claim need to state?

The claim must be written and verified and contain:

1) a brief statement of the contract and the work performed;
2) when the work was performed and completed;
3) the balance due after all credits; and
4) a sufficiently correct description of the property.

A subcontractor’s claim for lien must also identify the general contractor it contracted with and all other parties in the contract chain.

What are the lien and notice deadlines for general contractors and subcontractors?

A general contractor must record its lien claim with the local County recorder within 4 months of its last date of furnishing. If working on an single family owner occupied home, the general contractor must also served a copy of its recorded lien claim to the owner.

A subcontractor must also record its lien claim with the local recorder within 4 months of its last date of furnishing. However a subcontractor also needs to serve a notice of its lien claim upon the owner, mortgagees and its customer within 90 days of its last date of furnishing. If working on a single family, owner occupied home, the subcontractor must also send a notice pursuant to Section 5 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act within 60 days of the first day it began work at the project.

Both subcontractors and general contractors must file a lawsuit to enforce their lien claims within 2 years of their last date of furnishing.  This deadline can be accelerated if the owner or other interested party issue a demand under Section 34 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act (770 ILCS 60/34 et seq.) demanding that the lien claimant file suit to enforce its lien claim within 30 days.  If the claimant fails to do so, it will lose its lien rights.

None of these deadlines can be extended and there is no provision for the extension of lien rights under Illinois law.


Nothing stated on this page is intended to be legal advice or to create an attorney client relationship. Should you need help with any of these issues, please do not hesitate to contact us for further assistance.

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