In November 2016, we wrote an article for Inside Times ‘Through the Gate’ section which focused on the problems of getting insurance if you’ve got a criminal record.
It was written as a series of questions and answers and a copy of the article can be found below.
I’m just about to leave prison and have been told that it might be difficult to get insurance for my new flat and business. Is that right?
It’s true that most mainstream insurers discriminate against people with unspent convictions and you are probably going to struggle to get house or commercial insurance with them. Every mainstream insurer (except some car insurers) have blanket bans on people with unspent convictions and will usually refuse to even provide you with a quote.
So, isn’t it better just to not disclose?
No. It’s unlikely that an insurer will find out about your conviction when you take out your policy unless they are alerted to it. The problem will come if you need to make a claim as this is when an insurer would normally take more interest in your criminal record. The insurer will want to check with you the details they have and, if you tell them something different to what you told them when you took out the policy, they may want to investigate further. If the claim you’re making is quite big, they may do an internet search against your name to see if anything flags up. They may even ask you to agree to have a basic criminal record check.
If your unspent conviction comes to light, your insurer could then refuse or reduce your claim or, in a worst case scenario, the police could prosecute you for lying when you took out the policy. So, not disclosing if you’re asked is a huge risk to take.
Will anybody insure me?
Yes! Since 1999, we’ve been working with a range of brokers to develop cover for people with unspent convictions and we publish a list of those who specialise in providing insurance for people with unspent convictions. Some of them will be familiar to Inside Times readers as they advertise in this paper. We’ve also put together a list of mainstream motor insurers who only take motoring convictions into account.
Our list of brokers and motor insurers is available to download from our website or by writing to our office address. One of the most important pieces of advice is to shop around and not simply take the first quote you’re offered.
Do things get any better when my conviction is spent?
Yes. Once your conviction becomes spent the picture is much rosier. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (as amended in 2014), if you received a prison sentence of four years or less, your conviction will become spent at some time in the future. For example, a 2 year sentence as an adult becomes spent four years after the end of the full sentence. We’ll look at how this legislation works in more detail in a future article.
Once spent, you won’t need to disclose your conviction to insurers and they’re not legally allowed to consider your convictions. However, insurers don’t always make it clear that people don’t need to disclose their spent convictions and we’ve seen insurers ask questions such as:
Have you or anyone who normally lives with you ever been convicted of, or charged with any offence (other than a driving offence)?
If you see a question like this, you should interpret it as only relating to unspent convictions. If the convictions are spent, you can say no.
What else should I know?
If an insurer doesn’t ask about convictions, check any documentation that you receive to make sure that the information they have about you is correct. We’ve seen examples where individuals were not asked about convictions, but when they were sent the paperwork to sign, the section about convictions had been marked with ‘No’.
If an insurer does ask about convictions, make sure you get some form of written confirmation of the information that you’ve disclosed. This will be helpful in the event of any disputes about what you’ve disclosed.
Don’t rely on a telephone call being recorded – get proof in writing.
If your conviction will become spent in the future, find out when this is so that you don’t disclose it for longer than you have to.