Thursday, May 9, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Saturday, March 30, 2013
First, in most states, the "general rule" is that each side pays their own costs for lawyers. However there is a HUGE general exception to that rule, which is that where there is a contract provision that covers fees, or a statute/law in place that mentions fees, then one party can recover legal costs from the other. That can translate into humongoid / ginormous fees, if such a petition is won. As such, it's hugely important that in any industry, and when contracting over ANYTHING, that parties understand (and when I say "parties" what I mean is YOU!!) that every contract should mention fees, but it needs to shift them away from you in the event of a loss. For example, if you are a landlord in a lease (it doesn't matter if it's commercial or residential), then the tenant should bear costs of enforcement or legal action. That way, recovery does not depend on whether the eviction is successful, and "enforcement" and "legal action" can be broadly defined. Likewise, if you have two construction companies, say, like one general contractor suing a subcontractor for work (or even the other way around), each company should be examining how, in the event of a legal issue like a disagreement about payment or performance under the contract(s), how can the wording be tweaked to shift the fees to the other side. Usually the best way to do this is to have a "prevailing party" provision, so that each side bears the risk of losing the case, and the winner gets to recover his fees paid. This provision could be limited further by using language such as "prevailing in establishing a contractual breach of this contract" or "prevailing in any cause of action except negligence" or "prevailing to be defined as a judicial determination that one party is more than 50% responsible...".
What I'm trying to say is... the parties to any kind of contract should really review the language and try to find not only common ground, but a mechanism to evaluate risk up front, and to deal with the heavy costs associated. It does not have to be long, but the language should cover the risk and apportion it.
Next, when I talk about fees, another important thing to understand, is that large law firms, and indeed, even small firms, charge ALOT. In my particular case, the lawyers at "Big Law" are charging $570 an hour in some cases, and they are charging $.18 for each piece of paper printed. Their paralegals are being billed out at $285 an hour, and that has translated into a claim for fees of nearly $1M. Those are big numbers. While every state has its own method of dealing with claims like these, let me tell you that where the contract in court has a provision that allows fees, where the petition is done correctly, the judge awards them. Thus, in big cases, or even small cases that take a really long time, the money is big. We don't want lawyers to be getting mansions on your dime now do we? (Well... mansions are nice, but I like mine earned fairly). Here, what John Q. Public needs to understand is that you can't control the cost of the other side's lawyer in a dispute. As such, if you as an individual or through your company hire counsel and try to be cost conscious, that's great, but it may not help you if you are sued or suing and the other side wins. Then, you John Q. Individual or John Q. Company, Inc., may be paying up BIG-TIME if a judge rules against you.
That is exactly why in contracting, whether over hiring a carpet cleaning company, construction, leasing, and hiring/employment contexts, among others (and anything, really), the parties to contracts should carefully read the contract and be sure of what it says. Hiring counsel to review is also a great idea, and it doesn't cost that much. A good lawyer will charge for an hour or two of time just to read and comment. It would be more to negotiate, but certainly counsel can be hired to peruse, comment and suggest - all things that help at the contracting stage. It helps if you have a lawyer on hand, but relationships can be groomed at nearly any stage.
Your Tip: Be Savvy and Proactive. It helps. It keeps costs down. It reduces risk (or keeps you in the KNOW about your risk if it cannot be shifted).
All in all, read people. READ!!
Have a great weekend and look for more as usual.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Thursday, December 13, 2012
What I want to know though... when you call me... is HOW did you learn about me? Sometimes people who call me are so eager to get to the meat and potatoes of why they are calling, or so fascinated by the words of wisdom that I have imparted, that we wholly forget some of the basics, such as: how you found me! I decided to write this small piece because when I got the bus-bench, I thought that I would be inundated with calls. I wanted to know how many people saw the ad, and would it be worth it for me to keep it up, or to possibly focus on some other more profitable advertising. Sometimes I want to know how you found me because I would want to thank the person who gave you may name. Others still, I may want to know because I write articles like this one, and I have a web presence, I want to know how that is performing.
All small businesses like to know that their efforts to be relevant, current and in your face would appreciate knowing how you found them. If you are calling any kind of professional, it's always great if you offer how you located them among their competition, so they can evaluate their advertising, market presence, and reach in this ever-changing global, Facebooking community! It's a great way to build immediate rapport with me, and definitely helps me. I usually forget to ask, and so I thought I would put a "shout out" to the world, that I do want to know how you find me. I want to know if you think I should be saying something specific, or writing on something - and I want to say that all of this feedback is important.
Do let me know! You can see our Facebook page "Levin Law Ltd." and be sure to LIKE us! Or check out www.levinlawltd.com
Best to you and yours in the New Year and look for plenty of News You Can Use in 2013!
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Let the Buyer BEWARE: How Internet-Based Real Estate Auctions May Leave You Wanting More... (in not such a good way)
HOWEVER, there are many risks of purchasing property in online auctions, E-Bay Style, and I'm here today to share with you some risks that you MUST be aware of, if you are to engage in the game of online bidding. A breakdown for you, my friends, of the top 5 Risks in Auction Real Estate:
- READ THE FINE PRINT. You may think that the online buying format is very simple, quick and to the point. What you may not realize, is that the fine print takes away whatever the BOLD print gives you. Case in point: I have a client who found a distressed/foreclosure apartment building for $150,000 in Chicago. Seemed like a great deal, until he got past the contract and into addendum's to the contract which took away everything that the contract had given. He was prevented from inspecting, obtaining any information whatsoever, and was required to close all without the benefit of having information necessary to close. This is a bad idea. Be sure to read very carefully and understand what you can and cannot do in such a situation.
- DEMAND INSPECTION RIGHTS AT CONTRACTING AND BEFORE CLOSING. Regardless of what any contract may provide, do not agree to buy property in any condition, from any source (online or otherwise, realtor or not) without having the right to inspect fully (with a licensed inspector) at least once. Any selling party who prevents inspection, invites lawsuits. DO NOT CLOSE WITHOUT AN INSPECTION. PERIOD. END OF STORY.
- DEMAND MARKETABLE AND MERCHANTABLE TITLE. In a foreclosure situation, you may be getting whatever bad title the seller has to sell you. That is unacceptable. You should never purchase from a party you don't know and accept a Quit Claim Deed at closing. As an incoming purchaser, especially in an online/bidding-auction type real estate transaction, you must be sure that the title you obtain in the purchase/sale, is good title, subject to the guaranties of the seller and their assurances of good title. Marketable title means there are no encumbrances, liens, issues which could come up to impede your title or cloud it. A title company must sign off on this and a Quit Claim Deed does not provide the warranty of title that is so important in real estate - EXPECT AND DEMAND IT.
- PROCURE TITLE INSURANCE YOURSELF IF SELLER WON'T PROVIDE IT. You cannot be forced to close on any property without title insurance. It matters whether or not a title company will insure a property, so it makes sense that you should test this by taking the transaction and closing it at a reputable title company which is licensed in your state. If the seller refuses, you have a really good reason to cancel the transaction. A buyer has the right to protect himself, and if you don't, you may be sorry.
- WALK AWAY IF YOU HAVE TO. There is nothing wrong with canceling or terminating a deal because you feel unsure. Usually the contract provides for such a right, but just because there is nothing spelled out in the contract does not mean you cannot cancel. Unless the seller is prepared to take you to court to force you to buy the property, the most you usually can lose is your earnest money and even then, that is not necessarily up for grabs in every transaction. It's recommended you seek the advice of a reputable and competent real estate lawyer who can review the situation and work with you to terminate officially, peacefully and for a full refund of your earnest money.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Ok, here goes. You know when you have a mortgage payment and that payment is due every month, say, around the first? Well, what if you could set up bi-weekly payments (i.e. paying every two weeks), and that would take 5-7 years off of a traditional 30-year mortgage? If it sounds too good to be true, think again. Here's some pertinent information and news I found online to share with you: *
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
First, I must acknowledge that without clients, us lawyers don't have much more than our diplomas and student loan bills. We need you. But perhaps more importantly, you need us. That's why, to have a symbiotic relationship, we partners in the law (us attorneys and you clients) need to learn how to co-exist, manage the case and get the results you need. These are but a few suggestions in this "Round I" for accomplishing those goals, listed in no particular order (as they are all important!). Be on the lookout for additional tips in later rounds!
- Be Honest. If you are lying about your case, or that you have a document when you really don't, or whatever it is that you are withholding, I'll find out about it. It will probably be when I'm supposed to deliver that "thing" to the other side of our dispute, and you'll have to admit you lied, and you don't actually have it. That's never good. Or, it can be at trial, when I ask you the all-important question, and you, being struck by the conscience, decide that what you've been saying all along isn't that plausible, so you change your story. Whatever it is, just tell me up front. I can't help you if you blindside me. Plus, if you make me look bad, I make you look bad. The difference is, I have to go before that judge sometime in the future, and you inadvertently make my future other clients look bad, because I get a reputation for lying. So.... what can you do? Save my future clients, and your current case. Just be honest. It's easier, and I promise you - cheaper.
- Do Not Call Other Attorneys to Check My Work. If you have a problem with me, don't understand something, or think that someone else can do it for less, then you need to come in and see me face to face. You would not believe what a small community we lawyers live in, and we sometimes (and often times) know each other. I have found out my clients were shopping around, and the "shopped" attorneys have called me to tell me my client called them. That's awful, and hurtful to boot. I don't call your neighbors, boss or friends to see if you are lying to me, so you should not call my competitors to see if they can beat my price. Maybe they charge less. But maybe they do a worse job. If you are concerned about a particular aspect of your case - let's talk about it. I don't get my legal ideas out of thin air. Usually there's a legal principle of law that I can show you to support where I'm coming from. If you don't trust me, there's a reason. Let's get to the bottom of it - but calling others undermines everything - and I'll quit as your lawyer if I think you are not loyal. We can work together, but I need your trust.
- Please Don't Try to Haggle With the Price. I am not a car dealer. My rates and those of most attorneys, are not negotiable. What we can work out, is how those rates are paid, but the rates reflect an attorney's skill, market for the services, and are a function of expenses and costs to represent you as the client. If you want to pay $75 an hour for legal services, then you will get that quality of work. This is a hint to you that $75 an hour for an attorney implies that you will NOT get good quality work from an experienced lawyer. If a few lawyers charge more than $150+ an hour, that's probably the going rate. As such, you should be asking questions about the lawyer's rate, but be advised that just like at the doctor's office, the price is not something that is up for that much discussion.
- Please Don't Try to Limit What I Can Do or Work On. As your lawyer, I need to be able to do my job. I have clients who try to restrict my work, telling what I can and cannot look at, and how much time I can spend on something. This kind of dialogue just interjects stress into the relationship and almost forces me to do a worse job than I could do if just given the reigns to do what I need to. When a client micromanages the lawyer, resentment builds and ultimately the work gets done anyway, but usually at the last minute. What can you do to avoid this? Just speak clearly about what you want up front. If you as the client need to approve this and that, then you should tell your lawyer up front. If my client had done that, it would have given me the right to tell him that I cannot work like that, and that maybe another lawyer would be better for that kind of arrangement. By being honest, as above, you engage in a better starting point for the attorney-client relationship, and the money is better spent on actual legal work, rather than fighting over the legal work. Good communication helps everyone in the game.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
However, and there's a "but" just around the corner.... what most people don't say or talk that much about, is what happens when people don't see eye to eye. What becomes of your newfound friendships when people take sides on issues, problems or solutions? People get very emotional, fights can break out, and things can go at any time, from bad to worse. Take the case of a medium sized condominium building, in say, Chicago. Great potential for a building and a community, but there are problems with the building. Finances are more than just "tight" ...they are on a shoe-string. There is not enough money to repair everything that needs fixing. How does this building prioritize, when some people want to go in one direction and others desire different outcomes? What about when the lines get blurry between friendship and finances and the safety of the investment into the real estate? Is it fair to vote by board majority, or building majority? How do buildings operate when the board principals feel guilty leaving everyone out, so they give them a vote? Should boards run everything when the unit-owners as whole can be affected? How should these things be policed? What about when some officers refuse to work with others? Dissention among the ranks can make for lots of problems.
Many people forget to analyze, when buying into common interest communities, that they are opening a Pandora's box of problems - because finances are intertwined, as are emotional and rational positions. People are very sensitive about their hard-earned green-backs, and when are you supposed do care more about your neighbor's future than you do your own? Is it fair to say that when another neighbor's roof is leaking, we should always put ourselves in their shoes, if our roof is not? Should we as unit owners agree to pay a portion of our funds for another's problem? Is it because we know that when the problem is "ours" that the neighbors will then have a corresponding obligation to pay for "our" problem? Who knows? What are the rules - and are they followed at all times? Sometimes yes and sometimes no.
Being on the condo board has even more implications - as I've written about before - because board members have certain obligations. That said, does anyone at the closing table ever think about the what-ifs of everyone in the building deciding they don't like you because your dog goes to the bathroom in undesirable places, or because you don't shovel snow as often as you should? Sometimes board members can't be impartial. Those situations create problems as well. What about the scenario when people begin to dislike the treasurer of the condo association because they are too financially conservative, and they refuse to agree to "normal" expenditures? What about when not everyone in a unit participates and helps with work to be done or decisions to be made? What about when you have members of the community who don't contribute to building maintenance, cleaning or yardwork? Resentments can brew out of nowhere (just like mushrooms) and when you purchase a condominium, especially in Illinois, it makes sense to do your homework and speak with condo-owning-know-it-alls, so that you get the best of the best, in terms of information. Knowledge is power, and I always encourage friends and clients alike, to arm themselves.
So what is the beef today? The issue today, is minding how your "neighborliness" can be swayed to and fro, based upon issues with board voting, participation in the community and financial matters within condominium associations. When people buy condos, they usually don't ask their lawyers to find out about who lives there, and what they are like. We leave these exercises for later - assuming that no matter what, we'll soon learn. That may be true. However what is important to remember, is that you must evaluate YOU - and what you desire to tolerate, have known about you, what level of involvement you can handle and what you anticipate will be expected of you. Living in a condominium is a lot more like living in a dormitory than most of us "condo people" ever imagined. Hall passes excepted, there are mini-pseudo-government controls on how much gets allocated to this or that - and regardless of how many of those neighbors you can get to be your Facebook friend - the very MINUTE that things go awry, which they often do, everyone "de-friends" each other, and what was an open-door policy of community gets bifurcated into something, well, less so.
My reminder for February, while condo prices in Chicago and surrounding areas are still painfully low, before you enter into what you think will be a promising investment, do please think long and hard about living in glorified apartments with shiny granite.... Often you get far more than you bargained for.
For more information on Chicago Condominium and Real Estate issues, contact me at email: email@example.com.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
SO, on to my post..... Today's short piece is about reviews and online information. You may know that there are many options available when you want to complain about, or praise someone you've worked with. Online sites like Yelp, Avvo, Better Business Bureau, Merchant Circle, Angie's List, and others, exist to allow not only negative feedback about a business, but allow for positive feedback as well. When you like your tailor, your carwasher-person, or your dog walker, (or yes, even your attorney), you should sing their praises! We are an online community, and when we help you with your need, your positive ratings online really do wonders to help us attract new businesses.
I am listed on Yelp, Merchant Circle, LinkedIn, Avvo, Rocket Lawyer, and others. If I have served you or someone you know, and you would take the time to comment, I would appreciate it! Similarly, other businesses really love feedback. We need you, our customers and clients. Without you, we don't exist. So, be sure to let all of us know how we are doing.
If you need me, just call. You have the number!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
- Outline what you want
- Be sure on exactly what the lawyer is or is not going to do. You can really be disappointed when you hear about what all the "other" lawyers do for their clients and yours is lazy, and refuses to do "this or that". I mean, really bummed.
- Be sure to compare and contrast what others are charging. What may be offered as a "discount" or a favor may be high or low, depending on what you need. I don't personally think that less than a few hours of the lawyer's time and one or two hours of the secretary's time justifies a $1000 fee, since there is no way that the secretary costs the lawyer as much as the lawyer costs me. In most cases, if there is a flat fee, it's still based upon the amount of time a task takes, based upon a typical "hourly rate".
- Ask who will be doing most of the work. While there is nothing wrong with having an assistant - I don't hire the secretary or law clerk as my lawyer, and you shouldn't either! If I wanted a law clerk to do all the work, then I refuse to pay the lawyer's rates, so there needs to be some justification when the lawyer is charging me for what his secretary or paralegal did. Ask. Find out!
- Before the document is filed or the paper drafted (or whatever you are working on) be sure that the lawyer has read it and can confirm that it's complete. It's really embarrassing when you are at a hearing before an important official and you are by yourself because your lawyer stupidly told you that it was a bad idea for him to be there (especially when everyone else had their lawyers present) and the hearing officer discovers your lawyer's mistake. Rolling your eyes helps, but just the same, your matter can be seriously screwed up when your "attorney" doesn't do his job correctly. Be sure. Double check. Every thing must be perfect.
- Ask your lawyer if they have malpractice coverage, or look up their status online. You can find information about Illinois attorneys and whether or not they carry malpractice coverage. Mistakes cost money, and you don't really want to use a lawyer that doesn't care enough about himself to have insurance. Would you really want to drive with someone who didn't have car insurance? I don't think so. Check. Be careful.
- Lastly, don't be afraid to get a few consultations. I made the mistake of hiring this "friend" without really shopping around. This yokel came to my wedding, ate the cake and talked with my mother, so I certainly didn't hesitate to hire him. Now, I am reminded that just because someone can dress up and look nice, it doesn't mean that they do a good job at their job. Take the time to meet a few lawyers before selecting one. Anyone who would be offended that you are "shopping around" is no one you want to hire. Now keep in mind that if it's me you are consulting with, I won't let you waste too much of my time before I need to be hired and compensated, but that is not the same thing as being careful about who you hire. Getting 3 consultations (even those you have to pay for) is good investigation into how your situation can and should be addressed, and you will be able to make a much better decision. Time spent learning is not time or money wasted.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
On June 30, 2010, the First District Appellate Court of Illinois reversed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case of Universal Structures, Ltd. v. Dr. Alan Buchman, et al. The trial court had dismissed the plaintiff general contractor’s mechanic’s lien foreclosure action claiming that the general contractor had failed to procedurally comply with the Home Repair and Remodeling Act (815 ILCS 513/20) by not obtaining the homeowners’ signatures on work orders and failing to furnish the homeowners with a Consumer Rights brochure. The First District reversed the finding of the trial court finding that the general contractor was not precluded from asserting mechanic’s lien rights upon the homeowners’ property even though it had failed to comply with Sections 20 and 30 of the Act. Relying predominantly on Fandel v. Alan, 398 Ill.App.3d 177, 188-189 (3d Dist. 2010), the First District found that the general contractor’s procedural errors in not securing the homeowners’ signatures on work orders prior to beginning construction and failing to provide the homeowners with the Consumer Rights brochure, even though unlawful violations under the Act, did not invalidate an otherwise enforceable agreement.
The Court held that “Nothing in the Act provides that a contractor who fails to get a signature on a written work order or provide the homeowner with a Consumer Rights brochure cannot collect for his or her work and that the homeowner is entitled to receive a valuable benefit without paying for it. . . . Merely because a contract may violate some law or some regulation does not necessarily make that contract unenforceable. Rather, contracts are unenforceable when the subject matter of the contract where the purpose of the contract violated the law, " citing Federal Land Bank of St. Louis v. Walker, 212 Ill.App.3d 420, 422 (1991). The Appellate Court found that the underlying agreement between the parties was valid and that the general contractor’s procedural violation under the Act did not bar it from asserting a mechanic’s lien or breach of contract claim. This opinion also references the amendment to language in Section 30 of the Act as support for its decision in this case. The First District notes in a footnote that it believes that Artesan Design, Behl and Fandel are better reasoned than the Third District’s opinion in Roberts v. Atkins, 397 Ill.App.3d 858 (3d Dist. 2010). It also distinguishes the Roberts case based on the fact that the plaintiff in that case never provided a written contract or work order to the defendant.
Why is this important to you, the property owner? Because the latest decision Universal Structures strengthens the long line of cases which focus on the law of contracts and a contractor’s right to recover pursuant to contract theories despite the fact that the contractor has failed to comply with procedural aspects of the Home Repair and Remodeling Act, which might have otherwise provided a defense. WHat is our bottom line, then? The Mechanic's Lien Act just got more teeth. Property owners attention please! Get lien waivers, and be sure to closely monitor all construction activity. Get contractor sworn statements, lien releases and everything in writing! Don't pussyfoot around the necessary paperwork! Otherwise, you'll be calling me to chase your money.
Fore more information on Mechanic's Liens, construction or real estate law, as always, call Alisa Levin at 312-720-0082 for your greater Chicago Law Source.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Is it true that the fundamental provision of the bill requires that most foreclosure purchasers of properties with active leases must give tenants at least 90 days notice before servicing eviction notices and filing for eviction in rent court?
Yes. The Act provides that any immediate successor in interest (meaning the person who owns it after your landlord – the bank or another buyer) must deliver a notice to vacate to any tenant giving 90 days’ notice. The new owner can terminate a lease, or honor it, but if they terminate the lease then they must provide the 90-day notice.
When the lease agreement is signed before the foreclosing loan was originated, i.e. when the loan is younger than the lease, is it true that the lease survives the foreclosure and the foreclosure purchaser must honor the lease until the end of the term?
Not necessarily. The Act does not differentiate between leases that existed before the loan originated and after. The Act provides that the preexisting tenant’s lease must be honored until the end of the term, UNLESS the new owner plans to occupy the property as his/her primary residence, then in that case, the new owner must provide the 90-day notice and the tenant can be ousted. The catch-point in the Act appears to be whether the next owner is a bank or another party intending to use the property as a primary residence. This implies that a tenant in an eviction proceeding MIGHT have a defense, if it can be proven that the successor-in-interest to the mortgagor (landlord) is not a purchaser occupying the property as a primary residence.
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, what key aspects should landlords be aware of?
Landlords should be aware of the main 90-day notice requirement. If the successor owner is not going to use the property as a primary residence, then the tenant’s lease must be honored. If a landlord is in a short-sale or foreclosure situation and their tenant asks them questions, it’s important not to promise that the tenant can definitely live out their lease term. The landlord should decline to answer those questions specifically and should state that there may be a situation where the tenant has to leave, but in no case will the tenant be asked to leave without notice.
Does the new eviction notice requirements under the Act exclude certain rental situations?
Yes, it appears to exclude situations where the landlord/tenant relationship is between family members or relatives or where the rent is substantially lower than market value for the property (which is likely evaluated on a case-by-case basis).
What can you do if this sounds like your situation? Be clear, and talk to your landlord. If you receive a notice from a bank or a party indicating they own your house, try to get clarity on the situation by talking to them or an attorney. For more information, you can always call your trusted Chicago Law Source, Alisa Levin at 312-720-0082.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Law Office of Alisa M. Levin
2319 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
For a full case listing or evaluation, contact me at the number above.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
You think that is the worst part? Possibly not! My client lived next door to his rental property, so danger was very close by! The tenancy started simply enough, with a man and a woman responding to an ad for a house in Chicago. They paid the rent and the deposit and signed a lease. They provided id and social security numbers. When they stopped paying rent a few months later, some digging around revealed that everything they provided was a lie. In fact, the man had a complete other identity and landed in jail for impersonating a police officer. Later, after securing an order of possession, my client discovered tools for making a meth lab, counterfeit currency, and a very large cache of condoms (suggesting some other kind of activity as well!). Luckily, this individual was apprehended during the actual sheriff's eviction and it all happened here in Chicago yesterday. I was face to face with this person a few times (and the woman later turned out to be a man named Laura). Fantastic story for the books.
How can this be avoided? Tenant screening is a must. I work extensively with NTN Chicago and its principal, Mark Madorin. Their office is in Oak Brook, and for a mere $20-30 per application, you can obtain rental history, criminal background checks, credit reporting and other information. You can determine rental history and prior evictions. You can find alias names and prior addresses to call prior landlords. You can avoid renting to a man named Laura, and you can prevent someone from operating a meth lab out of your house! If you think it can't happen, it can! Spending a few dollars on tenant screening services can save you thousands in Legal fees, court costs, and prevent you from having to evict a convicted felon from your place.
For more interesting stories from real estate law trenches in Chicago, call Alisa Levin at 312-720-0082.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Have you ever hired a contractor to perform work upon your property, only to find out later that one of their suppliers or another contractor put a lien on your house? Or have you hired a general contractor to do work and learned that although you paid the contractor he didn't pay his downstream contractors or suppliers? You should know that in Illinois (and similarly in other states) that mechanic's liens can be recorded against property in order to protect the contractor or supplier's right to be paid for work or materials incorporated into real estate. What does it mean to be incorporated? It means "attached" or "utilized within" real estate, such that it is or is intended to be a permanent part of the property. If the work is not lienable, then a lien (even if filed) is no good to the party filing it, and it has no impact upon the person's real estate to which it attaches. However if a lien is correctly and timely filed, it can be a vehicle to force a sale of real estate in order to obtain payment on the amount owed. That's right - if you have a lien upon the property, the real estate can be sold to satisfy the amounts owed on the lien. Moreover, in certain circumstances the lien claimant can jump ahead of the mortgage lender and get paid before they do. While certain requirements must be met - it's possible. Each case is different, so you must have your case evaluated by a competent attorney before proceeding.
In Illinois, the mechanic's lien laws give a number of rights to the contractor or supplier and the rules are different depending on the contractor's role in the work being done (i.e. general contractor, subcontractor, supplier, etc.). Even more is that architects, property managers, demolition contractors, landscape companies and hardware suppliers may have lien rights as well. Basically, lien rights arise once work has been done upon the property and it may relate back to the date of the contract. A contractor or supplier has very strict timelines to record a lien, and as an owner, you may have rights if the lien is not timely recorded. Likewise if you are a contractor, you must follow the time limits in order to protect your lien rights. After a lien is recorded, there are certain rules to follow for an owner in order to force the contractor to "call his bluff" on the lien and you can force him to file suit on it for a court to decide the lien. You should work with a trusted attorney to help you on filing a lien, responding to one that has been filed against your property, or to determine what kind of work or materials are lienable - since not everything is.
If you are a contractor or supplier needing a lien or a property owner who needs information, please contact me for a free consultation on Illinois law. I can be reached at 312-720-0082 or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.