In courts across New York, homeowners find themselves litigatingthe most intimate details of their lives — where they sleep, whothey live with, how they cook their dinner — all in the name ofinsurance.

More specifically, in the name of the “residence” or “dwelling”provision in their homeowners' policies, which insurance companiesincreasingly contend limit the homes eligible for coverage to thosehomes in which the insured “resides.” In this article, we examinehow courts have addressed this almost existential question. Wefurther argue that insurers' unwillingness to settle on aconsistent — or even articulable — definition of the term has beena double-edged sword, at once providing for disclaimers over abroad swath of behavior but also planting the seeds of defeat.

'Where you reside' requirement

Your homeowners insurance contains a provision that sayssomething very close to this: Property loss will be covered onlyfor damage to your “dwelling,” defined as “a one family buildingstructure, identified as the insured property on the PolicyDeclarations, where you reside and which is typically used as aprivate residence.” Usually the dispute will come down to that“where you reside” requirement.

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