Illinois Preliminary Notices

An integral step of the mechanics lien process in Illinois is to be sure that you’ve complied with any preliminary notice requirements. Not only do they help secure lien rights when they are required, but provide a number of other benefits to all participants on the project. This article is meant to provide contractors and suppliers everything they need to know about sending Illinois preliminary notices.

What is an Illinois preliminary notice?Preliminary Notice icon

Preliminary notices across the country go by all kinds of different names; i.e., preliens, prelims, notice to owners, a notice of furnishing, and a number of other names. All in all, these typically operate in the same fashion. They are documents sent to owners, lenders, or general contractors informing them of a sub or supplier’s participation on a project.

Following the notice requirements carefully will ensure that a contractor’s payments are secured in case of non-payment. Failure to comply with every step can either limit the amount of payment that is recoverable or completely extinguish lien rights. The Illinois mechanics lien law provides for two types of preliminary notices. These are known as a (1) 60-Day Preliminary Notice and (2) a 90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien.

Why send an Illinois preliminary notice?

First and foremost, preliminary notices should be sent all the time, regardless if they are required or not. There are numerous advantages to sending preliminary notices beyond securing mechanics lien rights.

Benefits everyone on the project

Sending preliminary notices on every job can provide benefits to all tiers of project participants. By sending notice, the sub or supplier are promoting visibility on the project, opening the lines of communication, and can go lengths to avoid payment problems before they begin.

Also, contrary to popular belief, owners and GC’s should love receiving preliminary notices. They provide a comprehensive look at who’s on the project, and what they are contributing. This helps owners and lenders to be more comfortable with the process, and prevent the risk of any “surprise liens” on the property.

Secures mechanics lien rights

Mechanics Liens Are Hard to Challenge

Both types of Illinois preliminary notices are available to protect and secure mechanics lien rights in case nonpayment arises. This is especially important if others on the same project are sending preliminary notices.

The 60-day notices are implemented to protect both homeowners and contractors working on residential projects. It notifies the homeowner of the contractors and work being done on their property and is a necessary step to secure payment on such projects.

As for the 90-day notices, these may not be required in every situation, but failure to do so can limit the amount payments that can be secured by a mechanics lien claim. That’s because general contractors are required to provide the owner with a “sworn statement” before any payments are made. This statement should include a list of all subs and suppliers and the amount owed to each before any payments are made.

If the sworn statement incorrectly lists a sub’s amount, then that sub is only protected to the extent of the amount named therein as due or to become due. So, if the GC properly lists the payment amount, then the sub will be protected for the full amount. However, any mistakes can limit the amount of protection if the sub failed to send a 90-day notice. Or worse, if the contractor fails to identify a particular sub, all lien rights can be lost without that 90-day notice. Don’t be that contractor!

Who needs to send an Illinois preliminary notice? Who is it sent to?

60-Day Preliminary Notice

This preliminary notice is only required under very specific circumstances. First, the project must be a single-family, owner-occupied residence. If so, then any party who didn’t contract directly with the owner is required to send this notice to the property owner. Sometimes, whether the project is “owner-occupied or not” can tend to get confusing.

For example, check out this scenario from our Ask an Expert Center: Is a residence considered owner-occupied if the owners are not living three during remodeling?”

90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien

This type of notice is not necessarily required. But it will have a major impact on the ability to collect the full unpaid amount. Anyone who has provided labor, services, or materials; and didn’t directly contract with the property owner should send a 90-day Notice of Intent to Lien. If a contractor or supplier is working on a single-family, owner-occupied residence, then both of these notices should be sent.

When does an Illinois preliminary notice need to be sent?

Lien Calendar Deadline

60-Day Preliminary Notice

A 60-day preliminary notice must be sent out within, you guessed it, 60 days of first furnishing labor or materials to the single-family, owner-occupied residential project. If this deadline is missed, then the claimant’s lien rights are limited to the unpaid balance to be made to the prime on the original contract.

For example, if the lien claim is for $5,000, and the sub fails to give the 60-day notice, and the unpaid balance to the prime is only $2,000, then the sub has lost the right to claim the remaining $3,000.

90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien

As far as the 90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien, the deadline is within 90 days. This is measured from the claimant’s last day of furnishing labor or materials to the project. Labor such as warranty work or punch list items won’t be factored into the “last day of furnishing.”  If this deadline is missed, there may be a chance that the lien rights are still intact. As stated above, missing this deadline leaves contractors and suppliers relying on the prime contractor to list the proper amount on their sworn statement.

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What needs to be included in an Illinois preliminary notice?

60-Day Preliminary Notice

An Illinois 60-Day Notice needs to have certain information in order to be valid. They should contain the following:

  • Name and address of the claimant
  • The first date of furnishing labor or materials to the project
  • Description of labor or materials provided or to be provided
  • Hiring party

In addition to all of this information, there is also required notice language that should be included, and this must be in 10pt, bold font. The notice should be as follows:

NOTICE TO OWNER

The subcontractor providing this notice has performed work for or delivered material to your home improvement contractor. These services or materials are being used in the improvements to your residence and entitle the subcontractor to file a lien against your residence and entitle the subcontractor to file a lien against your residence if the labor, services, material, fixtures, apparatus or machinery, forms or form work are not paid for by your home improvement contractor. A lien waiver will be provided to your contractor when the subcontractor is paid, and you are urged to request this waiver from your contractor when paying for your home improvements. 

90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien

The formal requirements for a 90-day Notice of Intent to Lien aren’t too strict either. The statute states that the form of the notice may be in the same form as the one provided. This is merely an example of what the notice should contain. The requirements for an Illinois 90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien are a bit vague, but the more details added the better.

“To (name of owner): You are hereby notified that I have been employed by (the name of contractor) to (state here what was the contracot or what was done, or to be done, or what the claim is for) under his or her contract with you, on your property at (here give a substantial description of the property) and that there was due to me, or is to become due (as the case may be) therefore, the sum of $….”

How does preliminary notice need to be sent?

Both types of Illinois preliminary notices must be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested. Illinois requires an extra layer of security. The law also requires that the notice be sent with restricted delivery to the addressee only. The notice by certified mail is considered served at the time of its mailing. Otherwise, personal service can be used, and delivery is complete upon actual receipt of the notice. This is an issue that has come up multiple times in our Ask an Expert Center:

Bottom line

Preliminary notices are an invaluable tool for construction projects. Not only do they open up communication and reveal the full payment chain; but also impact the amount of mechanics lien protection available on Illinois construction projects. No one wants to have to file a lien. However, securing the ability to do so (and for the full amount) can provide useful leverage in case a payment issue arises.


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Illinois Preliminary Notice Guide - All You Need to Know
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Illinois Preliminary Notice Guide - All You Need to Know
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An integral step of the mechanics lien process in Illinois is to be sure that you've sent any required preliminary notices. Not only do they help secure lien rights when required, but provide a number of other benefits to all participants on the project. This article is meant to provide everything you need to know about sending Illinois preliminary notices.
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