Tuesday, 14 June 2011 11:27 AM
Claiming on your home or possessions insurance can be an unnerving process for anyone, but when you have unspent criminal convictions it can be a lot worse.
An unspent conviction is considered a 'material fact' by insurance providers; this means that you are expected to disclose the information as soon as it becomes necessary to do so. It could be when you are taking out the policy, or it could be at any point during the course of your cover, but either way you must declare your unspent conviction to your insurer as soon as you can. This doesn’t just apply to you: you're required to tell an insurer if another member of your household has unspent convictions too.
What would happen if I told my insurer I had an unspent criminal conviction?
So, you call your insurer at the first available opportunity and confess that you (or a member of your household) has a conviction that is not currently spent under the rules of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA).
Most insurers will not take kindly to being told about a conviction, so they might (in a worst-case scenario) take immediate action to cancel your cover. More understanding insurers may still cancel your policy, but offer you a grace period to allow you to arrange cover elsewhere. They might even allow you to stay on until your cover runs out but advise you that they will not offer renewal. In other cases, your insurer may keep you on but impose special terms or increase your premium.
What happens if I don't tell my insurer about my unspent criminal conviction?
Whatever you do, you must tell your insurer: neglecting to do so is a false economy. If your insurer finds out that you have had unspent criminal convictions at any stage during your policy coverage period, they are likely to cancel your policy or at the very least impose a higher premium.
If you need to make a claim, you will be asked whether all the information that you gave at the start of the policy is still correct and you may be required to prove that you do not have any unspent convictions. Evidence such as this is more likely to be requested when a claim involves a larger sum of money, so you could find yourself unprotected when you need your insurance protection the most.
However, if your insurer was aware of your convictions, making a claim should not be unduly complicated. In some cases, often depending on the nature of your past crime, insurers may choose to scrutinise your claim in more detail than they perhaps would do in normal circumstances. You will be required to co-operate fully with your insurer during any additional investigation.
Rest assured that declared convictions should never prevent a claim from being paid.
What if my insurer didn’t ask whether I had any criminal convictions?
If you have not declared your criminal convictions because you were not directly asked to do so at the time of application or renewal, then an insurer might still be able to avoid paying your claim, as the onus is technically on you to inform them.
If you were not asked a clear question about your convictions and your insurer decides to avoid your policy, you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
If you were asked and you deliberately misled your insurer, then your insurer is likely to avoid making a full (or any) payment and you may find yourself liable to prosecution for insurance fraud.
Insurance companies are not able to carry out CRB checks against you, but they are entitled to request that you provide one yourself at your own expense and may even ask you to produce a Police Subject Access Request (to backdate your convictions to the start of the policy).
There are many who think that the current ROA is outdated and in need of drastic reform, but until that happens, insurers are empowered to discriminate openly against those seeking ex-offenders' insurance. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a choice. There are a number of insurers who are actively working toward creating fairer insurance for people with criminal convictions insurance issues. The registered charity UNLOCK (the National Association of Reformed Offenders) is working closely with many sympathetic insurers, to make sure criminal convictions insurance is available where it is needed.