The Trusted Adviser October 2010 | Volume 3 • Number 9



Mechanic's Liens

Roberts v Adkins, 397 Ill App 3d 858, 921 NE2d 802, 336 Ill Dec 946 (3rd D, 2010).

Facts:Dale and Wanda Adkins (the Adkins) hired Jerry Roberts to perform repairs on their home in August 2007. The parties disagreed on the repairs that the Adkins requested to be performed. Roberts verbally told the Adkins that the job would cost $750, but ended up billing them for more than $2000. Roberts never provided the Adkins with a written bid, work order, or agreement.

The Adkins testified that they hired Roberts after seeing a newspaper ad that represented Roberts as registered and insured. Roberts was not registered and insured at the time he made the repairs.

On August 30, 2007, the Adkins paid Roberts $600, and planned to pay the remaining $150 upon completion. Roberts claimed to have completed the work on September 2, 2007, but the Adkins were dissatisfied with the results. The Adkins put up signs instructing Roberts not to do any more work. After seeing the posted signs, Roberts sent a letter to the Adkins stating they still owed him $2,194.34. He billed them approximately $2,000 more for extra work he claims the Adkins requested him to do.

When the Adkins refused to pay, Roberts recorded a mechanic's lien for $2,194.34 and filed suit to foreclose on the lien. The Adkins filed a counterclaim, raising the Home Repair and Remodeling Act (Act) as an affirmative defense. The act requires those engaged in the business of home repair provide a pamphlet explaining consumers' rights. Also, if a contract is over $1,000, the contactor must obtain a signed written contract or work order. The Adkins also counterclaimed that Roberts breached the contract and also violated the Consumer Fraud Act.

The trial court ruled in favor of Roberts and awarded him attorney's fees. The court found that the act did not apply to the original oral contract for $750. The Adkins appealed with the following argument: (1) the act precludes Roberts from foreclosing on his mechanic's lien; (2) Roberts is not entitled to attorney's fees; and (3) they were entitled to relief on their counterclaims.

Holding:Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. The appellate court disagreed with lower court's decision that the act did not apply to the oral contract originally made by Roberts and the Adkins. The appellate court held that at the point where Roberts became aware that the costs would exceed $1,000, he was required to obtain the written contract. Because the contract violated the act, it was invalid. This rendered Roberts' lien invalid because it was not based on a valid contract. The court also noted that Roberts violated the act not providing the Adkins with the consumers' rights packet.

The appellate court also reversed the lower court's award of attorney's fees to Roberts. Because Roberts could not foreclose his mechanic's lien, he is not entitled to attorney's fees.

Finally, the appellate court addressed the Adkins counterclaims. The court agreed with the Adkins that Roberts breached the oral contract. Roberts did not perform his side of the bargain, and the Adkins were damaged as a result because they still must pay to have the repairs finished. The court remanded to determine damages.

The court did not agree that the Adkins were entitled to relief based on Roberts violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. While the court noted that Roberts violated the act by not being registered and insured, the Adkins failed to show any injury based on this violation. Therefore, no relief could be granted.

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[Last update: 10-8-10]