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What to do about not being paid.

IllinoisMechanics LienNotice of Intent to LienRecovery Options

30 days behind on 60 hrs of pay and next Friday behind on another paycheck, I am a contractor subbed to a sub-contractor LH piping . I need to know what information I need to get and what process to go through in order to get paid. The company is in Illinois where the work took place, the sub-contractor lives in Tennessee and I live in Oklahoma.

1 reply

May 28, 2019
I'm sorry to hear about that, and slow payment can create serious headaches for any construction business. Unfortunately, this is a problem far too many businesses face, and slow payment is actually an industry-wide problem. While there's no single guaranteed method for obtaining payment, one of the most powerful recovery tools available will be to file a mechanics lien. Though, talking out the issue or merely threatening to utilize a lien are generally better first options. After discussing liens, I'll touch on some other potential recovery options.

Talking it out. When slow payment is occurring, the first step should typically be to reach out to the customer and figure out why payment isn't being made. Often, discussing the matter will at least get the ball rolling on speeding up that payment. Plus, if the answer as to why payment isn't being made is an unsatisfactory answer, at least you'll know where you stand and what other options might be the most appropriate.

Notice of Intent to Lien. If talking out a payment issue doesn't do the trick, looking to a more powerful recovery tool might be appropriate. Because mechanics liens are such a powerful remedy, the mere threat of a lien claim will often lead to payment (or at least grease the wheels). By sending a document like a Notice of Intent to Lien, a construction business can show that they're serious about payment and that they'll use whatever methods necessary to ensure payment is made. Because a Notice of Intent to lien will be sent to both the customer and the property owner, it also puts more pressure on the customer to make payment - owners don't take kindly to mechanics lien threats, and they'll want the dispute resolved as quickly as possible.

Plus, for most construction businesses, a Notice of Intent to Lien is actually required before filing an Illinois lien (and it must be sent within 90 days of last furnishing labor or materials to the project). This is helpful for two reasons: (1) Because it's an official part of the mechanics lien process in Illinois, a Notice of Intent to Lien will serve as a stronger signal that a lien might be filed; (2) sending a Notice of Intent to Lien is required anyway, so an Illinois lien claimant is one step closer to a valid and enforceable lien by sending one.

Mechanics liens are a powerful tool. If necessary, filing a mechanics lien is always a strong option. A lien creates an interest in the property which clouds the property title, and for a number of reasons, this can push for payment. That idea is discussed in detail in this article: How Do Mechanics Liens Work? 17 Ways a Lien Gets You Paid. Plus, in Illinois, the vast majority of subcontractors will have the right to file a lien. Though, there are notice and deadline requirements in order to preserve the ability to file a mechanics lien. You can learn more about those requirements here: Illinois Lien & Notice Overview.

Other Options.Finally, keep in mind that there are always other options for recovery too. For one, threatening or actually pursuing legal claims is always an option (like breach of contract, under prompt payment laws, under unjust enrichment - or some other legal theory). Or, taking to small claims court or sending a debt to collections might work.
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