Remember that “pre-lien” deadline!


Not the 90 days or 4 months

deadline; or the Rule 34 deadline


Instead, the 3-year rule

            Mechanic’s liens only can be enforced if the lienor jumps through all the hoops, e.g., the right legal description, notice to the owner within 90 days, recordation within four months, etc.  But even if all the lien procedure is done right, it can all be irrelevant if you failed to comply with Section 6.

            In Doornbos Heating and Air Conditioning v. Schlenker, 2010 Ill. App. LEXIS 704 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st Dist. July 12, 2010), the owner, a medical facility in Oak Lawn, appealed a trial verdict in favor of an HVAC subcontractor.  One of the arguments on appeal was that Doornbos was not entitled to enforce its lien because it had not completed its work within three years of the work’s commencement.  Section 6 of the Mechanic’s Lien Act requires the provision of labor and materials to be begun and finished within three years, but does “provision” mean the entire scope of the contract or just the provision that is the subject of the lien?

            The date of the final Doornbos contract was May 15, 2000, but Schlenker claimed that Doornbos commenced work in April 1999. Since it left the site on July 17, 2002, the argument continued, it had not satisfied the three-year requirement of Section 6.

            But the appellate court disagreed.  “The three-year period commences with the beginning of the work for which the mechanic’s lien is asserted and not the date upon which the contract for such work was entered into [citations omitted],” Judge Patti, wrote.  The court found that Doornbos had initially been paid draws so the work they covered were irrelevant.  The work encompassed within his lien did not commence until after an invoice date of February 28, 2000.

            Does this interpretation mean you must make sure you get everything done within three years?  No, but it does require completion of all work in three years and for which you later file a lien.  It is unusual to be in such a situation, but add this milestone to your checklist.