Disclosing unspent convictions to existing insurers

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Aim of this information

This information highlights what you need to consider before disclosing unspent convictions to an existing insurance company.

Why is this important?

The majority of our information on insurance focuses on purchasing new insurance policies and the impact that unspent convictions can have.

However, it’s also important to consider what to do if you have an existing insurance policy and have an unspent conviction. For example, you might just have been convicted, or overlooked the fact that you were asked about unspent convictions when you took out the policy.

Note – this information focuses on unspent convictions. Information on insurance and disclosing spent convictions can be found here.

If your conviction was unspent when you took out the policy, and you didn’t disclose this when asked, your insurance is potentially invalid.

What you need to consider

Point 1 – Did the insurer ask about your convictions?

Firstly, look at what the insurance company asked you. Take a look at your latest renewal documents. You might have to go back to your original policy documents. You’re trying to work out what you were asked when you last took out a policy with them (this includes your latest renewal).

Remember, you only have to disclose if you’ve been asked.

For example, if you received a theft conviction and were asked by your motor insurer to disclose only motoring convictions, you don’t have to disclose.

If you were asked, you then need to compare when you were convicted with what the insurance company require from you.

Point 2 – When were you convicted?

You then need to consider when you were convicted – was it during your current policy, or before the policy started? This is important, as it will have an impact on what you do next.

Convicted during the policy

If you were convicted during your current policy, you should check your insurers approach to ‘mid-term changes’. Insurers have a duty to inform you within your policy documents of your obligations in terms of disclosing any changes to your circumstances. Unless there is a explicit condition in your policy, you do not have to disclose convictions obtained during a policy, until your next renewal.

Some will ask you to notify them of changes like a conviction, whereas others will say that you need only notify them at renewal. We’ve seen a few that are quite specific about what types of information they need notifying of mid-term, and convictions may be in this list.

If mid-term changes don’t need to be notified, you can continue with your policy until renewal. At renewal, you should find alternative cover (see below).

Convicted before the policy started

If your conviction was unspent when you took out the policy, and you have not disclosed this when asked, your insurance is potentially invalid.

You should decide whether you want to notify your current insurer (and risk your policy being cancelled), or seek alternative insurance before cancelling the policy yourself. Bear in mind that if your policy ends up getting cancelled, this can cause problems in getting further insurance. You may find it useful to call your current insurer anonymously to ascertain what their approach would be to somebody in your situation.

Generally, we would advise that you should look to cancel your insurance and seek insurance elsewhere, as they asked you about unspent convictions and you didn’t disclose (see below).

If your insurance company decides that they want to end your policy, they may give you a period of notice so that you have time to find insurance elsewhere. However, they are not legally obliged to do so where an unspent conviction has not been disclosed.

Why cancel the policy and find alternative cover?

If you didn’t disclose when asked, there is a risk that your existing insurer could cancel your policy due to ‘non-disclosure’.

Instead, we suggest you cancel the policy and find alternative cover. You can do this using the list of insurance brokers that we produce.

Why? Having insurance ‘cancelled’ or refused can create problems further down the road, even once it’s spent. Although once your conviction is spent you do not need to disclose it to insurers, you will normally be asked whether you’ve had insurance cancelled, and the legal position is unclear as to whether the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 covers you in saying “no” to this question if the cancellation relates to a conviction that is now spent.

If you think you’ve had insurance refused or cancelled, we have some FAQ’s on how to deal with this.

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information – More information on insurance, including a list of companies that can insure people with unspent convictions, is in the insurance section of this site.
  2. Discuss this issue – Read and share your experiences in the insurance section of our online forum

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