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Is there a mechanic’s lien on the property you’re purchasing?

Is there a mechanic’s lien on the property you’re purchasing?


A number of unexpected difficulties may come up while purchasing property. One little-known problem that affects some buyers is the possibility of facing a mechanic’s lien.

According to Illinois Legal Aid, more than 800 of these liens were filed last year in the Chicago area alone. This kind of lien can take many years to settle, creating serious legal difficulties for new property owners. 

What is a mechanic’s lien?

When a construction company builds a home or business property, it usually employs multiple contractors, who may themselves hire subcontractors. If some of the contractors or subcontractors have not been paid in full by the time the project is completed, they can protect their interests by filing a mechanic’s lien. This means that the new owner of the property—not the original hiring company—will be legally responsible for all remaining payments. A mechanic’s lien can be a serious burden on a property, making it difficult to finance, improve, or sell.

Are there ways to find out about a possible mechanic’s lien on your new property?

A mechanic’s lien can be dangerous because it is a “hidden” lien that is not specified in real estate reports. To find out whether a property may be subject to a lien, potential buyers should take the following steps before purchase:

  • Collect all existing documents, invoices, receipts, contracts, and other paperwork related to the new property.
  • Bring the documentation to the Illinois county recorder’s office and check in person for liens on the property. A search fee may be required for this service.
  • Search the county recorder’s website for additional evidence.

By checking thoroughly with the county recorder, buyers can avoid unpleasant surprises when purchasing a new home or business.

How are property owners protected in Illinois?

Illinois property owners currently enjoy a number of protections against the effects of a mechanic’s lien. Since the Illinois Mechanic’s Lien Act was reformed in 2010, contractors are required to notify homeowners and business owners within 10 days if they file a lien against property they have worked on. Illinois law also protects the interests of property owners by giving priority to construction loan mortgages over any liens that might be filed on the property.

Save time and money by staying informed

If some of the contract work on a newly constructed property has gone unpaid, now is the time to find out about the problem and solve it in an efficient manner. By discovering and resolving a mechanic’s lien before a real estate purchase is completed, owners can avoid future legal hassles and unnecessary costs.

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