A Florida appellate court held that an insurer did not waive and was not estopped from relying upon a residency requirement in denying coverage where the insurer was not aware that insured was no longer a resident of the property until it conducted a post-loss investigation. Arguelles v. Citizens Prop. Ins. Corp., 44 Fla. L. Weekly D1726a (Fla. 3rd DCA July 3, 2019).
An insured had a policy covering a condominium that covered property within the “residence premises.” The policy defined “residence premises” as the “unit where you reside shown as the ‘Location of Residence Premises’ in the Declarations;” however, it did not define the term “reside.” The insured initially resided at the property and then rented it to tenants. During their tenancy, the tenants reported a water leak, and the insured reported the loss to the insurer. The insurer conducted a post-loss investigation and learned that the insured no longer resided at the property and denied coverage. The insured filed a petition for declaratory relief, and the trial court granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment. The insureds appealed.
The appellate court affirmed, finding the policy wording clear and unambiguous. Although the policy did not define the term “reside,” the appellate court determined that the plain meaning of the term should be applied. The insured argued that the interpretation rendered the policy “illusory,” with which the appellate court disagreed because the residency limitation did not affect other coverages, including for personal liability. The insured further argued that the insurer had waived or was estopped from relying on the residency requirement because it had accepted premiums. The appellate court noted that the insurer was unaware that the insured no longer resided at the property and thus did not accept premiums with knowledge regarding the insured’s failure to comply with the residency requirement. The appellate court held that neither the doctrine of waiver nor estoppel barred the insurer from relying on the residency requirement.