Illinois Construction Stuff and Stuff

Norm Cowie, CCE

Norm Cowie, CCE

Director of Credit for Paramont-EO, Inc.

It’s a small lien, just under four thousand dollars. 
And with poo-poo heads, er, attorneys wanting $300 or so per hour to pursue it, it wouldn’t take long to chew up most of the lien’s value foreclosing on it.

So why file at all?

I’ve had customers tell me they didn’t file liens for this amount or even higher amounts because they didn’t want to incur attorney costs. So they would just let their lien rights lapse, maybe bug the owner or GC for a while, but never go after them.

Anyway, when Frank, a customer of mine, told me he was having trouble paying his four-thousand-dollar balance because the owner of the property was being unreasonable, demanding reductions, concessions and refusing to pay him over $200k, it put Frank in financial straits, and he couldn’t pay all of his subcontractors and suppliers. 

Frank’s company has had credit with us since 1978 when his father started the business, and they had never been a collections problem over all that time. So when Frank asked for our patience as he tried to work with his difficult customer, I offered to file a ‘friendly’ lien to support him. 

So, what’s a friendly lien you ask? One that holds the door open, says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and doesn’t pass gas in an elevator? Well, no, as far as the owner of the property and bank are concerned, it’s just as nasty as any other lien, and ties up the title of the property with the same force and effect as a mortgage. The friendliness is only in that it’s not aimed at Frank, though he has to be named as a defendant.

Still though, would I file a foreclosure for four thousand dollars? In short, no. But 

if there’s a title company involved, they can’t pass a clean title along, and the bank mortgager would not allow it. Because of this, sometimes small liens get paid right away just to rid themselves of a nuisance. And while this wouldn’t get Frank all of his money, it would help him satisfy one of his creditors, so it helps him, too.

But there is one powerful weapon an owner/GC can use against a small lien. They can send a demand under Section 34 of the Lien Statutes giving the lien claimant thirty days to file foreclosure or the lien is forfeited. Even worse, if you ignore the letter, not only do you lose your lien, but Section 35 says if you don’t voluntarily file a release, you become responsible to the owner for $2500 in damages! 

Grrr. Certainly one of the most unfair, jerky parts of the lien statutes.

Frank appreciated me filing the lien on his behalf, but I made sure to talk with him about how we would proceed. I made the mistake once of filing a friendly lien with another customer for a lot more dollars, and he held up payment for years as he litigated. So I make sure to get payment arrangements right up front, so I don’t go down that road again. Frank agreed to pay $500 per month while everything was moving. Of course, we would not tell the owner he was paying us, and as far as they were concerned our lien was still valid for the entire four thousand.

I’m sure your next question is, what happens if he pays in full? Well, I’d assign our lien to him, which is specifically allowed by Section 8 of the Statutes, and he’d be the new owner of our lien claim. Even though we were paid in full, the lien is still camped out on the owner’s front lawn.

As of this moment, he’s made a couple payments, and I don’t know how it’s going to end. Frank is having problems with his poo-poo head, so I gave him the names of a couple stellar attorneys (definitely not poo-poo heads), and hopefully they can help him out.

The fact that I know the lien statutes is something that many of my customers take advantage of with my full support and urging, since I’m more than willing to give them free advice and whatever help I can.

I’ve got a bit of room left, so I’m going to take a few lines and brag about something. 

Ready? Brag, brag, brag. Oh, wait, I need to say what I’m bragging about. Here goes: My book Mooned won the 2022 Firebird Book Award as the best Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy/Comedy! Woo!!!

Norm (MOONED is now available in hardcover. MOONED is a young adult book adults can read about a dog and cat turned into were humans by their werewolf master. Fun action. Check it out on Amazon.)