A federal court in Florida recently granted an insurer’s motion for summary judgment, finding that renovations, repairs or refurbishments do not fall within the plain and ordinary meaning of the phrase “being constructed” for purposes of a “dwelling being constructed” exception to a vacancy exclusion. Jarvis v. Geovera Specialty Ins. Co., 2017 WL 2869706 (M.D. Fla. July 5, 2017).

The insured made a claim under his property insurance for damage as a result of an intentionally set fire. The insurer denied the claim, concluding that coverage was precluded by the policy’s exclusion for loss caused by vandalism and malicious mischief if the dwelling has been “vacant” or “unoccupied” for more than 30 consecutive days immediately before the loss. An exception to the exclusion states that “[a] dwelling being constructed is not considered ‘vacant’ or ‘unoccupied.’” The insured sued for breach of contract. The insurer moved for summary judgment, arguing that the undisputed facts established that the vacancy exclusion precluded coverage for the fire loss.

The district court granted the insurer’s motion finding that the vacancy exclusion applied as renovations, repairs or refurbishments do not qualify for the “dwelling being constructed” exception to the vacancy exclusion. The district court found the phrase “dwelling being constructed” to be unambiguous and contemplating bringing a dwelling into existence from the ground up and not including in its plain and ordinary sense renovations, repairs or refurbishments to an already-existing dwelling.