Despite a last-minute attempt to derail the legislation by special interests who benefit from Illinois’ overly-complicated real estate laws, Cook County of Recorder of Deeds Karen A. Yarbrough was successful in passing a bill to allow the Office to help homeowners clear up expired mechanic’s (contractors) liens at no cost to the homeowner.
House Bill 5201, which awaits the Governor’s signature before becoming law, would allow CCRD to create a process with the Cook County States Attorney and the Cook County Administrative Law Department to examine expired contractors liens and provide recorded notice in the title that they have been found to be expired.
Under existing Illinois law, a contractor who provides work on a property and does not receive payment may file a lien (encumbrance) against the property. This provides public notice to protect the contractor, and helps preserve their ability to collect what is owed to them if the property is transferred or a foreclosure is filed. After two years from filing the lien have passed without enforcement or foreclosure, the lien is deemed expired under the existing law, but, there is no process for a homeowner to notate this in their title, other than filing a lawsuit in chancery court and then filing the resulting judgement, a costly and lengthy process.
HB 5201 provides a fast and free process to have the lien filing reviewed by CCRD to confirm that is indeed expired, and that there are no pending court cases involving the lien or property. Because the process only looks at whether the proper time period to confirm expiration has passed, it prevents the wasteful use of resources by removing the need to file a circuit court case to establish this fact. Once notice has been provided to all parties, with both having the option to stop the proceeding by filing a case in circuit court, the Administrative Law Judge will review the facts and make a finding, and provide a Notice thereof that will be filed with the property. It is CCRD’s intent that such a filing will ensure no issues arise in the future when the homeowner may need to sell or transfer their property.
House Bill 5201 represents the latest in Recorder Yarbrough’s commitment to making the real estate process easier to understand, and cheaper to access. In addition to creating free avenues for residents to address fraudulent or expired filings, she has created the most popular community outreach program in the County – The Property After Death Series – which shows people how to pass their home, cars and bank accounts directly to their heirs, avoiding the costly and contentious probate court process and the need to hire expensive lawyers or maintain trust accounts.
Once HB 5201 is signed into law by the Governor, CCRD will finalize the administrative procedures with the participating agencies, and publish notice when the program is ready to be utilized.