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There is little in the way of firm guidance about when a home ceases to be a residence. (Photo: iStock)

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

More specifically, in the name of the “residence” or “dwelling” provision in their homeowners’ policies, which insurance companies increasingly contend limit the homes eligible for coverage to those homes in which the insured “resides.” In this article, we examine how courts have addressed this almost existential question. We further argue that insurers’ unwillingness to settle on a consistent — or even articulable — definition of the term has been a double-edged sword, at once providing for disclaimers over a broad swath of behavior but also planting the seeds of defeat.

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