Widow apartment lease problem

Seven On Your Side
October 1, 2012 2:25:13 PM PDT
Losing a spouse is tough enough, finding out you may be forced to leave the apartment you shared together just days later, that's a lot of stress.

When that happened to a grieving New Jersey newlywed, she reached out to 7 On Your Side for help.

This woman went from being "just married" to widowed in the space of two weeks.

She wasn't ready to face waking up before being told she'd have to get out because her name wasn't on the apartment lease.

"This was his wedding ring, I joked with him because he didn't even get to wear it for 24 hours, but I wear it every day for him," said Angela Olexa, a widow.

Widowed at just 40 years old, Angela Olexa never thought, even as sick as her husband Michael was, that the happiest moment of her life would be shared with the saddest and that she would spend what should've been their honeymoon, burying him instead.

"Got married, the following morning he went to the hospital, he was there for 12 days and 13 days after we were married he passed away," Olexa said.

Michael Olexa was diagnosed with late stage cancer a month before they met.

They would marry five years later in a dream wedding donated by "Wish upon a Wedding", a nonprofit that helps couples facing terminal illness.

"Sickness and health, it didn't matter to me, I didn't look at him as being sick I looked at his as the one I loved," Olexa said.

The couple lived together along with his daughter from a previous marriage every other weekend, near the water at the Harbor Terrace apartments in Perth Amboy since 2007, so when Michael passed away in August, Angela says she was shocked by what the complex manager told her days later.

"Legally we could lock the apartment so you can't come in," Olexa said.

Angela never added her name to the lease, even though she's written checks for the rent going back five years, she says building management never made it seem like a big deal, until now.

"I was never told they knew as sick as he was they should've pushed me to be on the lease. I was never told that if I was not put on the lease I would then get kicked out," Olexa said.

But the contract is clear, the lease terminates upon the death of the named tenant, all Angela wanted was some time to adjust.

"This is where we had our lives and marrying him and burying him and then having to move?" Olexa said.

7 On Your Side worked with her management company, and Angela got an extension.

"I don't think this would've gotten done, it's a tough situation, everything I'm going through losing my husband," Olexa said.

The apartment complex says Angela never was in danger of being evicted and said they offered Angela the opportunity to sign a new lease under her own name.

But if you get married or live with someone, it's always a good idea to read over the lease so you know your rights.

More on Angela and Michael's love story: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/fashion/weddings/angela-sclafani-and-michael-olexa-vows.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

More on rental laws: http://www.housingnyc.com/html/resources/faq/rentcontrol.html




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