If you have a conviction, even if it’s a minor one, you could invalidate your cover if you don’t tell your insurance company. Not all convictions have to be declared (see the section on ‘spent convictions’) and insurers may not be interested in minor driving convictions. Find out about the ones that matter and what you can do.
How a conviction may affect your insurance
Insurers say they want to know about convictions because they could affect how much you’re charged for your insurance, or whether you get cover in the first place. The type of convictions insurers will want to know about depend on the kind of insurance policy you want to take out.
- Household insurance: Fraud and arson are two convictions that household insurers will be particularly concerned about. However, they may also decide to charge you a higher premium if you’ve been convicted of assault because of the possible increased risk of reprisal attacks.
SAVVY TIP: Some household insurers want to know about motoring offences (particularly if it involves dangerous or drunk driving) but most say they don’t need to know about minor offences such as convictions for speeding convictions. Check with your insurer or broker and get confirmation in writing.
- Motor insurance: Motoring convictions are relevant. It doesn’t matter how minor these are, your insurer will want to know. A conviction for fraud will also be something the insurer wants to know about.
SAVVY TIP: Insurers generally don’t ask about parking tickets (officially called ‘penalty charge notices’) or parking fines, which are issued by the police if you’ve parked in an obstructive way.
- Travel insurance: Most insurers don’t want to know about previous convictions before you take out a travel insurance policy, but you can’t assume all take the same approach. Read any applications forms carefully and check with the insurer if you are in doubt.
You only need to declare ‘unspent’ convictions. This is a legal term and is part of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. It means that after a certain time, you don’t have to tell certain people (such as prospective employers or insurers) about a conviction, although a spent conviction will show up on an enhanced criminal record check.
SAVVY TIP: The amount of time it takes for a conviction to become spent depends on the sentence given. For example, if it’s a fine, it’s five years, if it’s a prison sentence of less than six months, it’s seven years.
Telling an insurer about your conviction
Some insurers don’t make it very clear that they want to know about any previous convictions. It’s a particular problem if you renew your insurance with the same company year after year, where you may simply be asked whether your circumstances have changed in the last 12 months. The charity Unlock, which works with reformed offenders recommends that you tell insurers about all unspent convictions and get confirmation in writing that this will not affect your premiums or ability to claim. If they say they don’t need to know, get that in writing as well.
SAVVY TIP:If you think your insurer didn’t spell out the fact that you should declare your convictions, consider complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Will it mean I can’t get insurance?
If you — or someone in your house — has a previous conviction you may be turned down for household cover by some insurers, no matter how minor the offence.
- Some insurers are very cautious and have a ‘no convictions’ rule. They may void a policy if you didn’t tell them about a conviction.
- Depending on the offence, an insurer might decide to load the premium (which means you pay more than someone who doesn’t have previous convictions).
SAVVY TIP: The amount your premiums were loaded by would depend on the offence and the number of convictions. For car insurance, one speeding conviction might not make a difference to your premiums, but two definitely would.
- Some insurers will want to know about ‘pending’ as well as actual convictions. So, if you’re due in court about a speeding offence in the future, you’d still have to tell the insurer at renewal.
SAVVY TIP: If you’re not convicted when the case comes to court, but the insurer charged you more on the basis that you might be convicted, ask if they will refund the difference.
Finding out when your conviction is spent
You can find out when your conviction will become spent by using the charity Unlock’s Criminal Record Disclosure calculator.
Where to get insurance
If you can’t get cover because of your convictions, contact Unlock, which has a list of companies that will insure you if you have an unspent conviction.
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