Woods Lonergan Prevails for the Somalian Embassy in a Complex Real Estate Dispute in Southern District of NY

By James Woods
Managing Partner

October 25, 2023 | Written by: Grace Dixon

Woods Lonergan Somalian Embassy in Complex Real Estate Dispute NY

The Democratic Republic of Somalia filed suit against a Manhattan condominium building’s board of managers in New York federal court, alleging that the board had filed liens against two of the condo’s units the country owns, even as Somalia was overbilled by more than $90,000.

Somalia told the court in a Tuesday suit that the board of managers of the Otic Professional Condo, a commercial building in Manhattan’s Upper East Side neighborhood, assessed the country more than $58,000 in common charges and over $34,000 in assessments beyond what the condo resident should have owed between 2017 and 2022.

And not only has the condo building’s board refused to reimburse Somalia for years of overcharges on the commercial units that function as the country’s United Nations delegation offices, it has also maintained two liens against the condos for overdue charges and assessments, Somalia alleged.

“To date, after admitting to overcharging the plaintiff over several years with no reasonable excuse, the defendants have refused to rectify their negligence by crediting the plaintiffs account, or by refunding the plaintiff, the amounts that it has been overcharged,” the complaint said. “Furthermore, the defendants maintain two improper liens of common charges on the office units, which are false, willfully exaggerated and/or have been satisfied, and defendants have failed to terminate these liens.”

Somalia purchased one commercial condo at the Otic building located at 425 E. 61st St. in 1987, acquiring the neighboring unit a year later. Under Otic’s bylaws, residents are billed common charges and assessment costs in proportion with their interest in the building, per the suit.

In the country’s case, it was on the hook for a 0.72% proportional share for one unit and a 2.55% share for the other, Somalia said.

Yet, in a memo released by the building’s board in September 2022 detailing a history of inaccurate billing, the managers admitted to overcharging Somalia by 0.14% on one of its condos and by 0.49% on the other, according to the suit.

Somalia says it was overbilled at least $93,621.83 between 2017 and September 2022. The country added that the board also charged more than it should have in the years preceding 2017, though Somalia didn’t clarify how much it overpaid in those prior years.

The board was unable to explain the disparity between the percentages owners were billed compared to their actual common interests in the building. Managing agent and co-defendant Colliers was unable to pin down the discrepancy either, despite conducting an investigation, Somalia alleged.

The liens against Somalia’s units were filed prior to the board’s revelation of its years of overbilling, according to the complaint. One lodged in 2013 alleged that the country had failed to pay more than $32,000 in common charges, with the other lien filed in 2016 claiming that the owed charges totaled over $20,000, per filings in county property records.

The dispute between the country and condo appears to predate the filing of the liens. The board of managers filed suit against Somalia in 2012 alleging it was owed more than $54,000 in common charges for both of the units.

The board voluntarily dropped the suit, however, at the outset of 2013.

Counsel for Somalia and a representative for Colliers did not return requests for comment Wednesday, and the condo’s board could not be reached.

Somalia is represented by Andreas E. Christou of Woods Lonergan PLLC.

Counsel information for the board of managers and Colliers was not immediately available Wednesday.

The case is Democratic Republic of Somalia v. Board of Managers of the Otic Professional Condominium et al., case number 1:23-cv-9361, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

About the Author

James Woods, Managing Partner of Woods Lonergan, holds more than 25 years of experience in corporate, real estate, and business legal matters. His expertise in handling negotiations, litigation, jury trials, and all forms of alternative dispute resolution spans multiple areas, including corporate, real estate, and commercial litigation. James actively represents dozens of Cooperative and Condominium Boards and serves as counsel to many Corporate Boards. Prior to founding the firm, James proudly served as an Assistant District Attorney for Nassau County and handled both jury and bench trials. With experience that also covers sophisticated transactions and complex acquisitions, James also serves as counsel to several domestic companies in a range of industries and commercial arenas, including real estate, insurance, banking, transportation, and construction. If you have any questions about this article you can contact attorney James Woods through his biography page.

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