WHEN CAN I FILE? Subcontractors on owner-occupied residences must take action within 60 days of the FIRST date of work.  All other subcontractors must take action within 90 days of the LAST date of work.  Prime contractors can file up to two years after "substantial completion" of work BUT have the strongest rights if they file within four months. If they don’t pay, don’t delay!

WHAT MUST I DO BEFORE I FILE MY LIEN? Usually there is at least one notice that you must mail before you can file your lien. These notices are sometimes called notices of intent to file lien. Illinois Document Preparation fee of $165 includes all required notices of intent.

WHAT IF I SUPPLIED MATERIAL TO SOMEONE WHO MADE IT INTO SOMETHING ELSE AND SOLD IT TO THE CURRENT OWNER? You may be able to file your mechanics lien. Call us to discuss. 1-866-866-LIEN.

WHAT IF THE DEBTOR HAS FILED BANKRUPTCY? You may still be able to file–depending on exactly when you finished work and when the debtor filed bankruptcy. But time is of the essence. So don’t delay!

CAN I FILE A MECHANICS LIEN IF I'VE ALREADY FILED A LAWSUIT? Yes, as long as your lawsuit has not yet come to a judgment. We at Illinois Document will be happy to discuss your rights with your lawyer.

WHAT IF THE OWNER HAS SOLD THE PROPERTY TO SOMEONE ELSE? You can still file your lien. It makes the new owner angry, but that's good because the new owner will now go back to the old owner (your debtor) and demand that the old owner pay you so that you will take your lien off the premises.

CAN I FILE EVEN IF I DIDN'T FINISH THE PROJECT? There are some technicalities, but–generally speaking–as long as the failure to complete wasn’t your fault–that is, as long as you were ready, willing, and able to finish the project–you can file your mechanics lien.

WHAT KIND OF WORK IS LIENABLE? Any work on fixtures, which means the land, anything permanently attached to the land (like a building, driveway, tree, or fence) or anything permanently attached to the thing that's permanently attached to the land. Here's a rule of thumb: If you worked on something that would normally stay with the property when the property is sold, it's a fixture. Remember, that's just a rule of thumb.

WHAT IF MY WORK INCLUDED WORK ON FIXTURES AND NON-FIXTURES? If you can put a good-faith value on the work that you did on fixtures, you can file your mechanics lien for that sum.

HOW LONG DOES A MECHANICS LIEN LAST?  A mechanics lien expires two years after your last date of work.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO RENEW A MECHANICS LIEN?  No.  The only way to maintain your mechanics-lien rights beyond two years is to file a mechanics-lien foreclosure lawsuit before the two years expire.  Your lien rights will continue as long as your lawsuit remains active.

CAN I PUT A LIEN ON PUBLIC PROPERTY? You cannot file a traditional mechanics lien on public property (such as a road, school, police station). But you do have powerful rights. If you are a subcontractor, you can lien the funds due from the public body to the general contractor. And you can make a claim on the payment bond. Under Illinois law, the general contractor must provide a bond to the public body (the city, school district, etc.) for the purpose of paying subcontractors. It’s just a matter of sending the appropriate notices to the appropriate parties. IDP does the paperwork. We make the Freedom of Information request(s) to the public body, prepare the notices, and transmit them to you to sign and mail. It’s that simple, and our fee is the same $165. Call to discuss a particular project.

ARE THERE ANY ADDITIONAL FEES? Yes.  Illinois law requires you to mail your preliminary notices via certified mail, and so you will incur the fee of the U.S. Postal Service.  And you will incur the county filing fee.  This fee varies by county but usually ranges between $40.00 and $60.00.



DOES IT MATTER WHETHER MY CUSTOMER WAS A BUSINESS OR RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMER? No. You can file a mechanics lien on business or residential real estate. However, the notice of intent varies depending upon whether the property is commercial or residential.  And the time limit for sending the notice on residential property can be short. So don’t delay!

CAN YOU FILE MY LIEN ELECTRONICALLY? Yes.  Our fee for e-filing your lien is $85.00, which includes the county filing fee.  Not all counties accept e-filing yet, but more are coming online all the time.

EXACTLY WHAT LEGAL RIGHTS DOES A MECHANICS LIEN GIVE ME? Maybe the most important thing that a mechanics lien gives you is bargaining power. It’s the "kick in the pants" that your debtor needs to pay you. But, beyond this informal advantage, a mechanics lien gives you powerful legal rights in a piece of real estate. A mechanics lien gives you the legal right to file a foreclosure lawsuit on the property and sell the property and use the proceeds of the sale to pay the debt that your customer owes you. Of course, you can file a lawsuit without filing a mechanics lien, but you run the risk of paying your lawyer to fight an entire lawsuit only to find that the defendant has no assets to pay you. If you file your mechanics lien first, you can be reasonably sure there will be something there for you after you finish legal proceedings. In fact, even if the debtor sells the property before the completion of the lawsuit, your lien stays with the property, and you can still foreclose against the new owner and pay yourself out of the proceeds!

WHAT IF THERE ARE ALREADY OTHER LIENS ON THE PROPERTY? Then by all means file! That means this debtor has money problems and others aren't getting paid either. Generally, the first to file has the strongest rights. BUT our Illinois lawmakers did contractors a big favor by writing into the law a special provision that sometimes allows mechanics lienholders to "jump ahead" of others--even those who have already filed! But there are strict time requirements. So don't delay!

CAN I INCLUDE LIEN-PREPARATION FEES AS PART OF MY LIEN? No, and be very careful of lien services that tell you that you can. Section 35 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act allows you to recover the "cost of filing" which means the fee charged by the county recorder of deeds. Some other lien services–in their lack of understanding of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act–mistakenly interpret "cost of filing" to mean "cost of preparation." Section 17 of the Illinois Mechanics Lien Act allows an award of attorneys fees BUT ONLY IF you commence a lawsuit. Section 17 DOES NOT cover the fees of a lien-preparation service and DOES NOT allow inclusion of the fees of the lien-preparation service in your lien. Be very careful–if you overreach in your mechanics lien, you risk your entire lien being invalidated.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I FINALLY GET PAID? Before the debtor pays, s/he probably will demand a "Release of Lien." If IDP prepared your lien, we can prepare the release for you at no charge. But don't hand over the release until you've been paid! Once you deliver your release, your mechanics lien rights are gone. So demand a cashier's check before handing over the release. And remember, although you must provide a release when you've been paid, you do not have to file it for your customer. Let them file it and pay the filing fee.

Maybe the better question is, "Why do the other guys charge so much?" Not so long ago, preparing a mechanics lien meant driving to the county recorder’s office, parking, going through security, poring through endless records, requesting copies of appropriate documents from the clerk, sitting and waiting for the copies, and then going back to the office to prepare the documents. But now there are online databases which provide the necessary information. In most cases, it’s no longer necessary to leave the office. These databases are not free, but they have changed a task that used to take hours into one that now takes minutes. But of course the "old boys" aren’t lowering their prices. They’ve got a good thing going, and they don’t want to give it up. But IDP passes the savings on to you. So why pay more? Call Illinois Document Preparation Co.

HOW DO I GET STARTED? Just give us a call. We'll need the following basic information about your transaction:
  • The name and address of your customer
  • The address of the property where you did the work
  • A brief description of your work
  • The date and amount of your agreement (whether written or verbal)
  • The amount of extras (if any)
  • The amount of money you've received (if any)
  • Your last date of work
We'll take it from there. Our normal turnaround time is less than 24 hours. Compare that to other lien services that charge you extra to prepare your documents in 48 hours.