I placed a lien on a customer that owes me $5,000 in June. They still haven't paid. How can I collect?
You state that you "have a lien" but that your customer has not paid in over 7 months. Frankly, this could mean several things.
Under Illinois law, you "have a lien" by virtue of doing work and not getting paid. That lien interest is "inchoate" and cannot benefit you unless it is "perfected." To perfect a lien, you must file notice and send it via Certified Mail to certain parties by the relevant deadline (for subcontractors, 90 days, for all contractors, 120 days to take priority over a mortgage, etc.).
Assuming that ou properly perfected your lien by the statutory deadline, then you have 2 years from the last day of work in order to foreclosure your lien in Court. If you want longer than that, you lose your lien.
Even if you are within the 2-year limit, simply having a perfected iien does not result in payment. To secure payment you must foreclose your lien by filing a lawsuit in the Court for the county in which the property is located.
Depending the the county and the staying power of the parties, you may incurr costs far above the value of your $5,000 lien in order to foreclose. Remember, however, that there are alternatives. For instance, for a debt like this you may simply wish to sue in Small Claims Court - much more cost-efficient.
Obviously there is much more to this process, but the above represents the basice. I hope this information has been helpful. In general, I would recommend working with Counsel who can not only address such situations, but keep them from happening by using the right contracts and documentation.
Best of luck!