What can we do, as a subcontractor, to get the contractor to pay us? to

4 months ago
State: Illinois

We completed the job in March and still have not been paid. The contractor was communicating with us at first but now will not answer at all. Do we have any other real recourse in IL besides filing a lien?

Senior Legal Associate Levelset

When unpaid on an Illinois construction project, filing a mechanics lien is often a great tool to recover payment. However, it’s not necessarily the only tool – and it might not be the best tool, depending on the situation. Let’s dive into some of the rules and requirements surrounding Illinois mechanics liens. Then, we can explore some options outside of the mechanics lien process.

Illinois mechanics lien requirements
In Illinois, a subcontractor must send preliminary notice within 60 days of first furnishing labor or materials to the project in order to preserve the right to lien.

That’s not the only required notice, though. within 90 days from a subcontractor’s last furnishing date, a 90-Day Notice of Intent to Lien must be sent in order to preserve the right to lien. If a claimant was not hired directly by the property owner and fails to send this notice, they will not be able to file a valid and enforceable mechanics lien later on. More on Notices of Intent to Lien here: What is a Notice of Intent to Lien?

Options for recovery outside of a lien filing
Of course, there are always options outside of filing a mechanics lien that can help recover payment. For one, regardless of whether a mechanics lien will ultimately be filed, sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien can help move things along. This is particularly true when sent to both the claimant’s customer and the property owner. Considering the drastic effects of a mechanics lien filing, owners will typically want to have a construction payment dispute resolved quickly if they believe a lien is in play.

Further, threatening legal action – like a suit for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, or some other legal theory – can be effective, too. Payment demand letters sent via attorney will generally carry a little more “umph”.

Finally, actually pursuing a legal claim, be that under traditional litigation or in Illinois small claims court, can get the job done too. While filing suit can be risky and expensive, small claims court can help expedite the process for Illinois claims that are under $10,000.

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