Author: Law Office of Andrew Szocka

Residential Real Property Disclosure Act

Residential Real Property Disclosure Act

The Residential Real Property Disclosure Act (765 ILCS 77) was passed in 1998 to protect home buyers from sellers who falsely report conditions of their property during a real estate transaction. The disclosure act is intended to provide buyers with a reliable representation on the major conditions of the property. Under this act, the seller has to deliver to the prospective buyer a written disclosure statement before the signing of a written agreement between the seller and the prospective buyer. The goal of the disclosure is to report any damages or material defects to the residential property.

According to the Act, material defects are required to be disclosed by the Seller. Based on a disclosed material defect, a prospective buyer may terminate the contract 3 business days after the receipt of the report (765 ILCS 77/40). Some Sellers fail to disclose material defects to the Buyers, which may result in a Buyer seeking damages. The Act provides a remedy for damages acquired by a prospective buyer of the residential property who discovers false information on the disclosure report before the closing transaction. If a seller knowingly violates the Act, “…he…shall be liable in the number of actual damages and court costs, and the court may award reasonable attorney fees incurred by the prevailing party.” (765 ILCS 77/55)

Under this disclosure act the seller is not liable if (1) the seller had no knowledge of the error, (2) the error was based on reasonable belief that a material defect had been corrected, or (3) the error was based on information provided by a licensed professional. In order to complete the disclosure statement, the seller is not obligated to make an investigation or inquiry into any defects. (765 ILCS 77/25) The seller does become liable if he or she fails to provide the disclosure. The disclosure document must be provided prior to the transfer of the residential real property. If the seller refuses or fails to provide the disclosure, the buyer does have the right to terminate the contract.

If you need assistance with a real estate transaction, local attorney Andrew Szocka provides thorough and speedy real estate transaction assistance in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455 – 8430.

Quiet Title – Avoiding Property Disputes Before They Happen.

Quiet Title – Avoiding Property Disputes Before They Happen.

How many neighbors have fallen out over an extension that has been built, blocking out some of the sunlight into the next-door neighbor’s house, or a hedge planted over the property line, or a fence erected in the wrong spot? Bringing an action to quiet title does not require the parties are in an active dispute. It is a useful action to preemptively solve a question concerning ownership of a piece of property. There are, however, some important times to file a quiet title claim:

  1. When you are uncertain about your property boundaries – You may have a problem knowing where the exact borders of your real estate property are. This can happen because of an incomplete or sloppy survey or a dispute with your neighbor.
  2. When there are errors on the deed – The person creating your title deed can make clerical errors that affect you in the future if you fail to notice immediately. Whenever you receive your title deed, check to see if everything on it is right before you keep it.
  3. When dealing with the heirs of a homeowner – Usually, when a person with property dies in Illinois, the court will distribute that property to their heirs, sometimes selling it and dividing the proceeds among them. If you are interested in that piece of land, you will need to confirm that all heirs have agreed to sell it, and a quiet title lawsuit is the good way to do this.
  4. When there is an easement on a property – There are some properties, where you are supposed to share something with your neighbor, like a driveway, well, or boat dock. If this becomes a problem, you may need a quiet title lawsuit to determine the right ownership.

When should you speak with an attorney? The best to time to speak with an attorney is as soon as you think there is another individual who may have an ownership interest in the whole property, or an interest in a piece of the property, or the right use, cross, or access the property. It is important to speak with an experienced real estate attorney to explore what legal avenues may be available to help clarify and resolve questions of ownership interest before the parties disagree about the use or changes to the property.

Local attorney Andrew Szocka provides free initial consultations to help make sure you know what the best course of action may be. Visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430 to talk with an attorney about your property concerns.


Settlement Agreements: Mutual Verses Unilateral

Settlement Agreements: Mutual Verses Unilateral

A settlement agreement, also called a release, is a binding contract that settles a lawsuit or potential lawsuit between two or more parties and stipulates that no lawsuit can be filed in the future. The courts encourage parties to resolve their dispute through a settlement agreement rather than through the courts. The two main types of settlement agreements are 1) mutual settlement agreement and 2) unilateral settlement agreement.

Mutual Settlement Agreement

The first type of settlement agreement is a mutual settlement agreement, or a mutual release. In a mutual settlement agreement, each party releases the other from the lawsuit or potential lawsuit. A mutual settlement agreement is the most common type of settlement agreement because it protects all parties from possible litigation in the future.

Unilateral Settlement Agreement

The second type of settlement agreement is a unilateral settlement agreement, or a unilateral release. In a unilateral settlement agreement, only one party is released. Unilateral settlement agreements are common in unfair labor disputes. Therefore, the party not released could face potential legal issues in the future.

Who is Released in a Settlement Agreement?

In a settlement agreement, the parties are releasing each other (or one party) from any claims that may arise out of the incident and any future claims that may arise from the incident. The settlement agreement needs to specifically state that the party or parties are released. Heirs, executors, and assignees can also be released in a settlement agreement, whether it be mutual or unilateral. For example, if a woman has heirs, such as two children and six grandchildren, those heirs can also be released so they do not become liable for any debts owed by their mother and grandmother.

What Needs to be in a Settlement Agreement?

Regardless of the kind of settlement agreement, it does need to contain the following 1) Full names of the parties joining and signing the release, 2) Specifics about the incident that put the parties in conflict, 3) The title of the lawsuit if a lawsuit is pending, 4) The consideration, and 5) Indicate exactly what the parties are releasing each other from.

The consideration is the monetary amount of the settlement and anything else either party agrees to. In essence, the consideration is what will end the dispute. For example, in a settlement agreement involving a car accident, the injured party may ask for the consideration of $50,000 in medical bills and $10,000 for their pain and suffering. They may also ask that person who damaged their car pay for the repairs to the car. Consideration does not strictly have to be a monetary amount. For example, in a business dispute that involves a settlement agreement, a business may agree to stop using a certain name because it is too close to the other business’ name.

Who is Liable in a Settlement Agreement?

When parties enter into a settlement agreement, they are not admitting liability, especially in a unilateral settlement agreement. The settlement agreement simply ends the dispute regardless of liability. A settlement agreement should always be in writing and signed by all parties involved.

If you need assistance in a civil dispute, local attorney Andrew Szocka provides thorough civil litigation help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

Recent Changes to Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act

Recent Changes to Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act Creates New Risk for Primary Contractors

The Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act (Wage Act) is a powerful statute which creates significant penalties for employers who fail to pay their employees earned wages and benefits. A significant feature of the Act, which gives teeth to the provisions, is the ability of the plaintiff to collect attorney’s fees and costs for bringing an action against an employer. This provision makes it easier for employees to make claims against employers and increases an employer’s risk of a potentially costly lawsuit.

On June 10, 2022, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker approved HB 5412, which has now been enter into law as Public Act 102-1076. These amendments to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act, 820 ILCS 115 et seq., render owner-retained “prime” contractors entering into construction contracts in Illinois liable for claims brought under the Wage Act against their subcontractors at any tier.

The Act amends the Wage Act by adding section 13.5, Primary Contractor Responsibility for Wage Claims in Construction Industry. This amendment takes immediate effect and applies to “all contracts entered into on or after July 1, 2022.” The Act does not specify whether or how it will be applied in the event of preexisting contractual relationships (such as ongoing contracts modified by amendment or master-project agreements).

Primary contractors are now liable under the Wage Act for claims against a subcontractor which includes:

  • Unpaid wages;
  • Fringe or other benefit payments or contributions;
  • Interest owed;
  • Penalties assessed by the Illinois Department of Labor; and
  • Attorney’s fees and costs.

While the statute requires the subcontractor to indemnify the primary contractor, it also provides for the parties to contract otherwise. Primary contractors should reach out to review their subcontractor agreements, including those already in force, to determine whether they are at risk of unexpected and potentially costly wage claims.

If you need information contact Attorney Andrew Szocka.  To schedule a free initial consultation, call the office at (815) 455-8430.

Contract Basics and Disputes

Contract Basics and Disputes

A contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. A contract is formed when three conditions are met:

  • An offer by one party
  • An acceptance by the second party
  • Consideration that is exchanged between the two parties.

Consideration can be money for goods or services or services for services. The consideration should  be stipulated in the contract and agreed upon by both parties.

Can Contracts be Verbal?

In Illinois, contracts can be verbal or written down. However, the best option is to have a written contract. Without a written contract, it could cause potential problems if the legal route is taken to acquire compensation for damages. In court, verbal contracts can become tricky to present as enforceable and valid because “For an oral contract to be valid and enforceable, its terms must be definite and consistent. When it appears that the language used or the terms proposed are understood differently by parties, there is no meeting of the minds and no contract exists.” Martin v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 348 Ill.App.3d 846, 855, 283 Ill.Dec. 497, 808 N.E.2d 47 (2004).

Always Have a Signed Contract.

In addition to having a written contract, always have the signed contract. With a signed contract, the other party cannot claim that they did not know what the contract said, because they signed and agreed to the stipulations. Also, a signed contract holds more weight as evidence compared to a verbal contract. With a verbal contract, it can become a “he said, she said” situation. Therefore, verbal contracts can be hard to litigate in court without clear and concise evidence of what the contract entailed.

Be Specific.

A well written contract is always specific.  If the contract is not specific, the gray areas could be open to interpretation. The person involved in the contract could claim that he or she did not know about a stipulation of the contract simply because the contract was not specific. Even a judge can interpret a contract if it does not have specific stipulations or limitations, which may result in a court decision not in your favor. Specifics include the names of those involved in the contract, compensation for fulfilling the contract by both parties, and how long the contract will last for if applicable among other items. Every minor detail in a contract is important. In Illinois law, “When terms are unambiguous, a court must apply the language as written, given its plain, ordinary, and popular meaning.” Thompson v. Gordon, 241 Ill.2d 428, 441, 349 Ill.Dec. 936, 948 N.E.2d 39 (2011).

If you need help in contract disputes, local attorney Andrew Szocka provides thorough civil litigation help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. or call the office at (815) 455-8430.