They are called mechanics liens here. It has nothing to do with cars. I think it was something to do with people in the trades were call mechanics years ago.
Once you know how to do the paper work it's not hard. It doesnot cost much more then $20 to do it yourself here.
The key is you need to understand the process, paper work and time limits. Every place is different.
In IL you should send (certified return reciept) them an intent to file lien letter first. This is an important step here. You have a limit of ... days (I want to say 90)after work was completed. Returning for punch lists or warrenty work does not count. I believe there is an exception for a verbal notice but your much better with paper then words said. If you really wanted to cover yourself you could give this to the owner at the start. Sort of a hello, thank you for the work, I don't care who you pay if you didn't get a lien waiver from me then I was not paid so I will go after you welcome letter.
Then you have .... days (I think 120 but I'm not looking) to have a lien fieled with the county recorder. I get all the above noterized and copied also. Sometimes I mailed the forms in. But It can take a long time for them to turn it around. I have had it where the county has made a mistake and not recorded it. By the time it was returned to me it was pas the date. If the amount is anything major and time is short you would be best to file it in person.
The problem with the time limit is it can be easy fo a customer or GC on a big job to try to string you past the time limit.
With that said about the time limit there is nothing stopping you from fieling late. The people at the county recorders here are just rubber stampers. They don't care who owes who how much, who got paid, if things where done in the time limits, etc.. As long as you provide the required information and the correct fileing fee it will be recorded. Cook and Dupage County you can look up all on the internet as far as legal discriptions, owners, other liens, and other transactions for the property.
So what happens if you file a lien after the time limit. You can bluff the home owner. Unless they hire an attorny they will not know any better. If they want to pay for an attorny then they can take you to court and demand the lien is released.
Have not been to court yet but have been told that the looser pays court fees and if I win I can collect my attorny fees.
I have also herd of a few times that a customer my try to offer a lesser amount to release an old lien. In most cases that means they need to clear the lien for some property transaction. They say to hold your ground and then you will be paid soon.
Does it work. Yes. Just today I picked up a check for a generator job we did early this year. Also have a customer that we did a bath at the end of last year that will be closing on a house and moving out of state soon. He wanted to offer $500 on a $4500 job to reliese the lien. Ya, right.
Something that happened to several home owners is they hired a GC. The GC hierd us. Work was done. GC was paid but not the EC. SO the HO gets a lien. I can't say it's the fairest system but I deserve to get paid.
I believe in IL you have a right to collect 18% interst on a lien here. I never collect because I was just happy to get whats owed and get over it.
I can't say what happens to liens in a bankruptcy.
Dave if you or anyone elce wants help with a lien in IL just email me. It's not hard. Some one elce just asked me the other day to show them so they would not have to allways pay an attorny to do it.