Ruth Katz is a community associations attorney who helps board members of condominiums, homeowners, and cooperatives associations govern effectively. She provides general counsel to and resolves disputes for boards and property management companies in Maryland, DC, and Virginia.
Ruth brings experience coupled with enthusiasm to all her clients, whether advocating forcefully in court, poring over governing documents, or welcoming a new board member while explaining Robert’s Rules of Order. One client notes, “Ruth has demonstrated a superior level of knowledge and negotiation skill, and we have every confidence of continuing to rely on her for all such services. Ruth has been great to work with and as challenges may arise, I look forward to those future collaborations.”
As general association counsel, Ruth reviews, interprets and amends governing documents, drafts rules and regulations, reviews contracts, prepares and attends annual meetings, and enforces covenants. She skillfully defends associations against all claims, including contract breach of fiduciary duty, Fair Housing, employee issues, and insurance defense. Ruth regularly appears before Maryland, DC, and Virginia courts, as well as before the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities. She also helps associations collect delinquent assessments. With each client, she focuses not only on the legal issue at hand, but also on the real-life impact to the association.
Ruth, who co-chairs Lerch Early’s Community Associations practice, educates her clients about new legislation affecting their associations. She has been active in the Maryland Legislative Action Committee of the Community Associations Institute and its Washington Metropolitan Chapter. She recently served as President of The Washington Metropolitan Chapter of Community Association Institute.
Ruth loves world travel; pre-children, her favorite trip was hiking Peru’s Inca Trail to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Most recently she and her family enjoyed swimming with turtles in Hawaii.
- Hamline University School of Law (J.D., 2005)
- University of Minnesota (B.S. in Business, 2001)
- District of Columbia
Honors and awards
- Elected President of the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of Community Associations Institute (2023)
- Named to Top Attorney List by Bethesda Magazine (2019, 2021, 2023)
- Listed as “Rising Star” by Maryland Super Lawyers, Real Estate (2011, 2013, 2017-2020)
- Listed as “Rising Star” by Washington, DC Super Lawyers, Real Estate (2013, present)
- Named a “Leading Woman” by The Daily Record (2016)
- Received the “Volunteer of the Year” award from the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of Community Associations Institute (2016)
- Received the President’s Award from the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of Community Associations Institute (2016)
- Received the “Maryland Advocate of the Year Award” from the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of Community Associations Institute (2014)
- Received the “Rising Star Award” from the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of Community Associations Institute (2012)
- Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (Team Captain, 2013)
- Hillel House, Gallaudet University (Board of Directors, 2012-2013)
- Washington Metropolitan Chapter Community Associations Institute (President, 2023; Executive Committee, 2019-present; Secretary, 2019-present; Board of Directors, 2017-present; Chair, Member Services Council, 2016-2017; Chair, Communications Council, 2015-2016; Co-chair, Maryland Legislative Committee, 2013-2015; Member, Quorum Editorial Committee)
- Community Associations Institute Maryland Legislative Action Committee, 2022
- Maryland Legislative Action Committee service was from 2017-2022
- Maryland State Bar Association
- District of Columbia Bar Association
- Bar Association of Montgomery County, Maryland
- Virginia State Bar Association
- Women’s Bar Association
Lerch Early’s community associations attorneys provide practical counsel to board members and managers of common ownership communities throughout Maryland, the District, and Virginia on governing and managing effective and thoughtful associations.
News & insights
Regional full-service law firm Lerch, Early & Brewer is pleased to announce that Ruth O. Katz has been elected managing partner and chair of the firm’s Board of Directors. Katz’s …
The Daily Record has named Lerch, Early & Brewer as a recipient of its 2023 Empowering Women Award. The inaugural award recognizes companies and organizations that show a strong commitment …
Bethesda Magazine surveyed more than 1,700 attorneys who practice in Montgomery County asking them to name the attorneys they would recommend in 29 practice areas. Twenty-three Lerch Early attorneys were …
Lerch Early Attorneys Named to 2020 Washington DC Super Lawyers List Multiple Lerch Early attorneys have been selected for inclusion in the 2020 Washington, DC Super Lawyers and “Rising Stars” lists. Super …
Maryland Community Associations Legislative Update Despite a 2020 legislative session truncated on account of the public health emergency, the Maryland General Assembly passed three bills important to community associations. Once …
What You Need to Know: Community Associations Operations and COVID-19 As Boards and management companies continue to deal with COVID-19’s immediate impact, it is difficult to focus on other operational …
Successful HOA Meetings
Board members and homeowners of one of Lerch Early’s HOA clients were subjected to excessively long and argumentative board of directors and membership meetings.
Lerch Early’s community association attorneys regularly provide training to board members on how to run effective meetings. In this case, we scheduled training for the board of directors on Robert’s Rules of Order. Board members learned the benefits of a well-run meeting, the differences between running large and small meetings, how to construct an agenda, voting methods, and what to include in meeting minutes. We then conducted a meeting using what they learned at the next board meeting.
Using what they learned and saw demonstrated, the board was able to cut board meeting times significantly. For the subsequent membership meeting, the board chair distributed an agenda to the owners prior to the meeting and explained the procedures at the meeting’s outset. The annual meeting ran smoothly with a minimum of disruption. When a resident with a perpetual grievance raised a complaint, there was no second, so the meeting proceeded. After the meeting, several owners commented that it was the best meeting they had attended.
Defense of Business Judgment Rule
The architectural and environmental control committee of a Lerch Early homeowners association client approved construction of a fence. A neighbor challenged the approval before the association’s board of directors, which upheld the committee’s approval. The neighbor then filed a complaint before the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities.
Lerch Early demonstrated that the association acted properly and the board of directors rendered its decision without fraud or bad faith. We asked that the CCOC abide by the business judgment rule, by which a court will not interfere in the internal affairs of a corporation, absent fraud or bad faith.
The CCOC ruled that the association had the discretion on how and to what extent to enforce its rules and dismissed the complaint.
- Obtained a motion to dismiss before the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities, defending an association’s approval of a fence. The fence was on a “panhandle” or “pipestem” lot, in which adjacent houses are built facing different directions. The CCOC ruled that the homeowners association had the discretion on how and to what extent a rule should be enforced in special circumstances.
- Secured victory in the DC Court of Appeals on a Fair Housing issue in a cooperative where an owner alleged that the coop failed to accommodate her disability by denying her the right to sublet. First prevailed in this case in the DC Office of Human Rights, and again after five hours of oral arguments in DC Superior Court, before the DC Court of Appeals gave a final ruling in favor of the client.
- Successfully defended an appeal before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals for an association regarding the “business judgment rule” of an association’s board decision on roofing materials.
- Successfully defended a claim before the Arlington County Circuit Court in which a resident alleged that an association’s turning off his key fob for nonpayment of assessments was a breach of fiduciary duty, breach of easement, a Fair Housing Act violation, and retaliation under the FHA.
- Counseled an association on amending its bylaws to create lease restrictions and enforcement authority.
- Counseled a condominium on how to deal with a case of suspected employee theft, including notice to owners and termination of the employee.
Disclaimer: Each case is different and past results do not guarantee similar results in future matters.