How to Place a Lien in Chicago

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Liens are financial debts attached to real estate. Liens force property owners to settle their debts before they can sell their property, and in some cases before they can refinance. Lienholders can sometimes force an owner to sell the property to pay off lien-related debts.

In some states, only the government can attach liens to property, but in Illinois, different categories of debtors can petition the courts to add liens to property titles. Debtors range from contractors owed on renovations to recipients of judgments in court cases.

How to Place a Mechanic’s Lien Against Real Estate in Chicago

When a property owner doesn’t fully pay for construction or renovation work, the contractors or subcontractors involved in the project can file liens against the property. Subcontractors must take special steps in order to qualify to file a lien. All service and material providers must file a series of notices by specific dates to obtain a lien they can enforce and to avoid penalties.

Lienholders can foreclose on properties in certain circumstances to recoup their losses. However, many primary residences are protected by the Illinois Homestead Exemption.

Claimants should consult with a lawyer to ensure they follow proper procedure. Not only will mistakes invalidate a lien, but homeowners can sue contractors who fail to release invalidated claims, and they can win up to $2,500.

How to Place a Judgment Lien in Chicago

According to Illinois law, people and companies can obtain liens through civil court litigation. If someone wins a financial judgment in court, he can attach the debt to property owned by the other party in the case. The claimant takes the judgment to the Recorder of Deeds in the county where the property is located and has a lien recorded. Sufficient notice must be given to the property owner.

Multiple creditors may file liens against the same property. Because of this, a claimant must perform a title search on a property before initiating any foreclosure proceedings. The results might also convince a creditor to hold off on filing for foreclosure, as multiple defendants can greatly increase the costs and reduce a claimant’s chances of winning in court.

Certain claims carry more weight than others in Illinois. The proceeds of the sale of a home whose owner owes money for taxes, child support, repairs and a small court claim might result in a lienholder going empty-handed.

Read More: What is a Judgment Lien?

How Long Do Liens Last on Chicago Real Estate

In Illinois, liens on real estate can last for a total of 21 years, but the claimant must renew the claim every seven years. Unlike in some states, claimants aren’t forced to file for foreclosure for judgment liens to stay valid.

In some cases, the claimant can ask the court to force the sale of the property to pay a judgment without going through an extensive foreclosure process.

How Liens Hurt Your Credit

Having a lien doesn’t hurt a property owner’s credit score all by itself. However, it can make it difficult⁠ – even impossible⁠ – to refinance or sell a property. The judgment behind the attachment is what does the real damage to credit.

In Illinois, a judgment can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, though the credit reporting agency might remove judgments which haven’t seen any activity for the last 90 days.

Property owners can file for bankruptcy to discharge judgments and remedy the liens against their property.

Other Ways to Enforce Judgments

Filing liens on real estate over civil judgments is a complicated, drawn-out process. Sometimes it’s more trouble and expense than its worth. In Illinois, creditors have an option that might cost less and lead to faster debt resolution: wage garnishment.

Once a claimant has a judgment, she can file an Affidavit for Garnishment. This order instructs a party’s employer to withhold up to 15 percent of the worker’s paycheck for debt collection. As with liens, garnishment prioritizes certain orders over others. Child support, tax and student loan debts will be repaid before civil judgments.