You may be haunted enough as it is by the knowledge and memory of any past criminal convictions, without the cruel reminder that is likely to be given when any application for essential motor insurance or home insurance is flatly denied by an insurer.
Yet, if you have criminal convictions, this is likely to be the case. There are complicated rules about an insurer’s entitlement to ask for your disclosure of past convictions and the interpretation of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is not always clearly understood either by insurers or their customers.
Under pressure from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), there has been a change in the rules, demanding that insurers are more transparent in their reasons for requiring the disclosure of criminal convictions and provide more information to consumers about those requirements – since the rule changes made in April 2013, the onus is on the insurer to ask the right questions of a prospective customer.
If obtaining insurance is giving you any cause for concern, and since one of the areas where the issues are least understood is home insurance, then thankfully, there lies a solution in specialist property insurance for people with criminal convictions.
As specialists in the provision of this type of non-standard home insurance, we offer the following guide to getting home insurance with a criminal record.
Why does my home insurer want to know if I have a conviction?
The charity helping those with criminal convictions, Unlock, explains that insurance is all about risk and that mainstream insurers typically calculate that anyone with a previous criminal conviction represents a greater risk – whatever you might think about this being logical or fair.
In respect of home insurance for people with criminal convictions, for example, a mainstream insurer might argue that a conviction for dishonesty may point to a greater risk of the applicant subsequently making fraudulent insurance claims.
Arguments such as these may potentially affect a very large proportion of the population, explains Unlock. The charity points to the government’s own figures which reveal that more than 9.2 million people in the UK have a criminal conviction and that as many as one in three men have a criminal conviction before they reach their 53rd birthday.
Yet few of these – or, indeed, people who do not yet have a conviction – fully understand their legal obligations to declare their record when making an application for insurance or the likely implications of that declaration. Just two of the principal implications, for example, are answered by the questions:
What could happen when I disclose an unspent conviction?
although insurers are entitled to ask about your criminal convictions when you apply for insurance, they are not bound to do so;
recent changes to the rules on such disclosure mean that insurers need to make absolutely clear that they are asking you to declare any convictions and not leave such a question implied in the terms and conditions of the insurance contract;
the insurer’s response to any disclosure is likely to depend on the nature, gravity and relevance of the offence in question, but may result in your application being denied – even if the conviction was one held by a member of your family;
for any offences which the insurer may consider less serious or relevant to the type of insurance you are seeking, you may instead be charged an additional premium rate; and
What could happen if I don’t declare an unspent conviction when asked?
although insurers may no longer (since the rule changes in April 2013) rely on you declaring anything they consider to be a “material fact”, they remain entitled to ask potential customers about their convictions;
if you fail to answer a direct question about any criminal convictions or make an inaccurate declaration, your misrepresentation may be enough to invalidate your home insurance and lead to the rejection of any claim you make.
What do I need to disclose?
One of the principal difficulties and areas of major confusion in securing home insurance for ex-offenders – which mainstream insurers themselves do little to clarify – is the very important distinction between “spent” and “unspent” convictions.
In the first place, the insurer needs specifically to ask the question. If the question about your criminal convictions is not asked, you are under no obligation to disclose any.
The important distinction between “spent” and “unspent” convictions, moreover, means that you have no obligation to disclose any convictions that are spent. This is the case even in those instances where the insurance proposals questions might ask for a declaration of all criminal convictions in the past five years, let’s say. Despite the question, you have no obligation to disclose any details at all of a spent conviction.
So, what exactly is this difference between spent and unspent convictions?
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, as amended, is designed to help reformed offenders by determining a period after which any criminal conviction, or caution, which attracted a penalty of imprisonment for less than 4 years is regarded as “spent”.
Once a conviction is spent, the law treats the individual concerned as though he or she never committed the offence and was never charged, prosecuted or sentenced for the conviction in question – to all intents and purposes, it has been wiped from the slate.
Convictions are said to be spent, says a guidance note published by the Ministry of Justice, after a period of time prescribed by the Act and which differ according to the nature and severity of the crime. Exceptions to such rehabilitation are those who have been given a prison sentence of longer than 4 years or those who have been given a so-called “public protection” sentence (generally, for crimes of a violent or sexual nature).
Unspent convictions are those which have not yet reached any time limit prescribed by the Act.
Because of the complexities of the Act and the varying intervals before different criminal convictions become spent, it may be difficult to determine whether your particular conviction is already spent or when it is likely to be. To help you find out, the charity Unlock provides a secure online calculator to provide the answer.
The effect of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and the provisions which allow the majority of criminal convictions eventually to become spent is that the convictions do not need to be disclosed in any application or contract – including criminal convictions home insurance.
On the other hand, you are obliged to disclose any currently unspent convictions – if asked about them during the insurance application process – or you risk invalidating the cover because of your misrepresentation and any claim you make is likely to be rejected.
The major problem, however, is that once you disclose any unspent criminal convictions which you or members of your household may have, any mainstream home insurer may reject your application for the cover you need.
Thankfully, there is a specialist form of Home insurance for people with criminal convictions, designed as a form of non-standard home insurance cover, which provides all of the home insurance cover any property owner or tenant may require – and which provides protection against just as many risks as standard home insurance packages.
Where can I buy home insurance for convictions cover?
As with many other forms of non-standard home insurance, you are likely to need the services of a specialist provider – such as ourselves here at UKinsuranceNET.
A specialist provider has the expertise and experience to understand the difficulties and specific needs and requirements of those seeking criminal convictions home insurance and – just as importantly – have established working relationships with those insurers prepared to extend cover, even when unspent criminal convictions have been disclosed.
In our search for that match, we also ensure that any quotation we offer you is based on competitive market rates.
To get a quote click here
Your need is no less acute than any other homeowner or tenant when it comes to the protection of home building and contents insurance.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 distinguishes between spent and unspent convictions, granting the former anonymity and relief as though the offence had never been committed or the conviction recorded.
Insurers are entitled to ask you about your criminal convictions, but you do not need to disclose any spent conviction, however the insurer may put the question. On the other hand, you have a duty to declare any unspent criminal conviction, but that is likely to result in any mainstream insurer rejecting your application for the protection you need.
The way around this quandary lies with a specialist, non-standard form of cover; namely, criminal convictions home insurance. If you have an unspent criminal conviction, therefore, and are searching for any kind of home building or contents insurance, why not contact us now simply by calling 01325 346 328. We are accredited by the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) and the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and are duly authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.