Article Courtesy of The Daily Business Review
By Steven A. Meyerowitz
Published July 12, 2019
A state appellate court, affirming a trial court decision, ruled the owner
of a Miami condominium unit damaged by a water leak was not entitled to
recover because he was living in New York and renting the condo to tenants.
Donato Arguelles lived at his Miami condo for approximately 10 months before
moving in December 2013 to New York to work as a private wealth manager. He
leased a succession of apartments in New York.
In January 2014, Arguelles began renting his Florida condo to two tenants.
In February 2016, one of the tenants contacted Arguelles to report a
plumbing leak in the kitchen.
Arguelles arranged for a plumber and water mitigation company to make
repairs. He also contacted Citizens Property Insurance Corp. under his
homeowners’ insurance policy to report the loss.
Citizens conducted a post-loss investigation, learned Arguelles no longer
resided in the condo and denied coverage.
Arguelles sued Citizens. The insurer moved for summary judgment, contending
its policy’s residency requirement precluded coverage. Arguelles argued he
was entitled to coverage for his loss because the policy covered property
that was “your insurance responsibility under a corporation or association
of property owners agreement.”
The trial court granted summary judgment to Citizens, and Arguelles
appealed. He argued the policy language did not require him to actually
reside in the condo to be covered for the loss.
The Citizens policy provided coverage for “the alterations, appliances,
fixtures and improvements which are part of the building contained within
the ‘residence premises’ ” and “ items of real property which pertain
exclusively to the ‘residence premises.’ ”
The policy defined residence premises as the “ unit where you reside shown
as the ‘Location of Residence Premises’ in the declarations.”
The appellate court affirmed, finding the policy language was “clear and
unambiguous.” The court ruled the policy extended dwelling coverage to the
“residence premises,” unequivocally defined within the policy as the “unit
where you reside.”
The appellate court acknowledged the term “reside” was undefined in the
policy but said it had two definitions: “to live in a place permanently or
for an extended period of time.” It then declared that because Arguelles was
living in New York at the time of the loss and his Miami condo was solely
occupied by his two tenants, he was not entitled to coverage under either
Accordingly, it concluded the trial court properly granted final summary
judgment to Citizens.
The case is Arguelles v. Citizens Property Insurance, No. 3D17-2021 (Fla.
Ct. App. July 3). Attorneys involved include: Timothy H. Crutchfield, Mintz
Truppman, for appellant/cross-appellee; David C. Borucke, Cole, Scott &
Kissane, for appellee/cross-appellant.