Appellate Court Holds Mechanics Lien Pursuant to an Oral Contract Valid Under Home Repair and Remodeling Act

Many of us have had work done to our homes at some point, and sometimes difficulties arise during the course of such projects. DiTommaso-Lubin is familiar with the legal issues that arise in such cases, and our lawyers are always concerned about protecting the rights of consumers. Universal Structures LTD v. Buchman is a case about a home improvement construction deal gone bad. In Universal Structures LTD v. Buchman, Defendants contracted with Plaintiff to perform a series of demolition and remodeling projects at their home in Northfield, Illinois. The work was eventually completed and Defendants paid most of the amount billed by Plaintiff, but the payment left an outstanding balance of over $100,000. Plaintiff then recorded a mechanic's lien for the unpaid amount and eventually filed a lawsuit to foreclose on the lien. Defendants successfully moved to dismiss the lawsuit because Plaintiff failed to present them with a written contract or work order to be signed and also did not present Defendants with a consumer rights brochure. The trial court dismissed Plaintiff's suit because each of those failures constituted a violation of the Home Repair and Remodeling Act. On appeal, the Court reviewed whether Plaintiff was "precluded from asserting a mechanic's lien upon defendant's property . . . when there was no signed contract or work orders and no delivery by plaintiff of the consumer rights brochure" as required by the Act. The Court found that Plaintiff had entered into a valid oral contract with Defendants and had tendered written, itemized work orders for approval before performing any work, which created a right to a mechanic's lien. Furthermore, there is no language in the Act that that invalidates an oral agreement in the absence of a signed contract or failure to provide the consumer rights brochure. The Court pointed out that a contract is unenforceable under that Act only when the subject matter or purpose of the contract violated the law. As such, the Court reversed the lower court's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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