Anyone with a criminal conviction could have trouble getting insurance. But a new guide is aiming to make it easier.
A criminal record can push up the cost of insurance even if the crime in question has nothing to do with the type of cover being sought.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has recently teamed up with UNLOCK (the National Association of Reformed Offenders) to publish guidelines to help ex-offenders who are trying to buy a wide range of policies.
When you apply for cover such as home insurance or car insurance, for example, the law states that you have to disclose any unspent convictions, or ongoing prosecutions.
It does not necessarily matter what the conviction was for. But in many cases, those with criminal records are likely to face higher premiums or be turned down altogether.
Figures from Confused.com show that the average annual home insurance quote for customers with no criminal convictions was just under £200, compared with £423 for those who did declare a criminal record.
ABI spokesman Nick Starling says: “We recognise that some people with criminal convictions may encounter difficulties when looking for insurance. Our guidelines have been produced to ensure that people with convictions get a fair deal when applying for insurance.”
When you sign up to an insurance contract, you must disclose “all material facts”, even if you aren’t specifically asked about them.
Unspent criminal convictions (when the rehabilitation period related to your conviction has expired) fall under the definition of material facts, so you must tell your provider – and it’s a good idea to get written confirmation that they have been informed.
Insurers need to know about customers’ convictions, because these are one of the factors they use to assess risk, and set premiums.
A conviction can be spent provided the sentence imposed was less that two-and-a-half years, and if any rehabilitation period has elapsed.
If you need to check whether a conviction has been spent or not, based on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, check the UNLOCK website.
You do not need to disclose any conviction given during the course of a policy until it is up for renewal, unless the policy specifically states you must.
But what happens if you fail – for whatever reason – to disclose a conviction that you should have told your insurer about?
In such circumstances, the company could be entitled to cancel your policy or turn down a claim.
If this does happen to you, and you think the insurer has acted unfairly, you could make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. The ombudsman will look at your case to see if your failure to disclose was reckless or innocent, for example.
The ABI says that providers’ approaches to insuring ex-offenders can vary hugely.
The new guide states: “Many mainstream insurers operate a blanket policy of not providing insurance to people with unspent convictions.
“However, a few providers may take a more positive approach in some circumstances. For example, some are less interested in non-motoring offences when applying for motor insurance.”
The ABI/UNLOCK guidelines spell out to insurers what good practice is in relation to dealing with those with convictions.
Firms should provide clear information about how they use criminal convictions; they should ask clear questions about previous offences during the application process; and they should offer cover to people with convictions and related offences wherever possible.
Failing that, they should help consumers find an alternative insurer.
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