Requirements must be met to put a lien on someone's home

Q. I bought a car from a friend of a friend. I put some money down and agreed to pay him $750 a month for one year, which we both agreed would cover the cost of the car. I signed a note agreeing to make the payments.

After a couple months, I started having big problems with the car. It was finally determined that some very unprofessional repairs were made on the car to keep it running. I am now getting estimates of more than $4,000 to repair the car correctly.

Obviously, I stopped making the payments. I attempted to renegotiate the cost of the car but the seller would not compromise. He said the damage occurred after I bought it.

Right now, the car is sitting in my condo parking lot and is not usable as I don't have the money to fix it. To add to my problems, I just received in the mail a Notice of Lien from the seller. It looks like he has filed a lien against my condo for the amount that I have not yet paid him.

Don't I get a chance to argue my side? Does he just get to file a lien against my property? Is there any way to get this lien off my property?

A. There are numerous situations where a lien can be recorded against your property.

If you have work performed that benefits your property and the work is not paid for, the contractor can record a mechanics lien against your property for the value of the work. If a supplier furnishes materials that improve your property (windows, lumber) and the materials are not paid for, the supplier can record a lien against your property for the value of the materials. If a party obtains a court ordered judgment against you, a judgment lien can be recorded against your property for the amount of the judgment.

A simple dispute, however, does not establish a basis for a lien to be recorded against someone's property. For the seller to obtain the right to lien your condo, he would be required to file a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against you. Only then would he obtain the right to record a lien against your property.

I would suggest having an attorney write a letter to the seller on your behalf, demanding that the lien be removed immediately. Threaten a slander of title action against the seller. Punitive damages and attorneys fees can potentially be awarded, which should further encourage the seller to release the lien.

Q. How long does a seller have to respond to home inspection issues raised by a buyer? We signed a contract to buy our first house and had the home inspection two days later. That same day, our attorney wrote the seller's attorney telling her what we wanted repaired. Day after day went by with no response. Our real estate agent was telling us the listing agent would not return her calls.

About a week later, we saw another house we liked better. We told our attorney to cancel the first contract. We then pursued this other house and signed a contract to purchase that house.

The next day, the sellers of the first house responded and agreed to our inspection requests. Now we don't know what to do. Our attorney thinks we need to stay with the first deal and cancel the second, but we like the second house better. Any advice would be appreciated.

A. You need to review the terms of the contract, specifically the terms of the inspection contingency. The contract most commonly used in the suburbs provides that either party may cancel the contract if written agreement on all home inspection issues is not reached within 10 business days after the date of seller's acceptance of the contract. If you served notice of your inspection issues two days after acceptance then attempted to cancel the contract "about a week later," sounds like you were canceling nine calendar days after the acceptance date. Your attempt at canceling the contract appears to be premature. Presuming this is the language contained in your contract, I would advise that you likely did not have a legal basis to terminate the first agreement.

If you still wish to pursue the second deal, perhaps you could negotiate a settlement with your first deal sellers. Or, maybe they would just let you out. Time to open the lines of communication.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to or call (847) 359-8983.

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