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Insurance, banking and other financial issues

Bringing together links to information, personal stories, FAQs and useful links

Insurance, banking and financial issues, in brief

  • Many mainstream insurers discriminate against people with unspent convictions, even if the convictions are not relevant. There are some motor insurers, that only take into account motoring convictions. If you don’t have a motoring conviction and are looking for motor insurance then it’s worth checking which of these can give you the best quote.
  • If you’re looking to become self-employed or want house insurance, you’ll find the majority of mainstream insurers won’t be able to give you a quote. However, there are insurance brokers that should be able to assist you.
  • The issue of insurance is generally limited to motor, home and commercial policies. You shouldn’t encounter any problems with things like travel or life insurance.
  • Having a conviction doesn’t generally cause too many problems in getting (or maintaining) a bank account in the community. Individuals leaving prison may have difficulties primarily with proving their identity.
  • If you’ve been convicted of a fraud offence against a financial institution then you may find it difficult to open a bank account. If you’ve applied for an account and it has been refused, check your credit rating and also whether your details are on the CIFAS database.

Getting insurance

Car and home insurance policies

Whether you are buying car or home insurance, you only need to tell an insurer about unspent convictions and then only if they ask. The insurer should disregard any spent convictions that are disclosed.

If you have an unspent conviction then you may find it more difficult to get insurance and you will usually need to contact a specialist insurance broker.

Commercial insurance

If you are looking for commercial insurance (for example public liability or professional indemnity) you will need to disclose all unspent convictions, even if the insurer does not ask – this is deemed a ‘material fact’.

Opening and managing a bank account

Opening and managing a bank account while in prison

As a result of a project run by Unlock several years ago, many prisons have arrangements in place with local banks to open accounts for people in prison. You should speak to the prison resettlement department for further information.

Nothing happens to your external bank account as a result of being in prison but some court disposals (for example a confiscation order) may have an impact on it or, the fact that there has been no activity.

Opening a bank account in the community

Most banks now provide basic bank accounts and opening one of these shouldn’t be too difficult providing you have the relevant ID.

If you have been convicted of fraud against a financial institution then you may find it difficult to open a High Street bank account as your details may be logged on the Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System (CIFAS). In this case, you may have to consider other alternatives.

Getting a mortgage

Many lenders will have a question about criminal records on their application forms and if they do, then legally you will need to disclose any unspent convictions. However, every bank/building society will have their own lending criteria and it’s not necessarily the case that you will be refused a mortgage simply because you have a criminal record.

Other financial issues

A criminal record will have different implications for different people. Some will need to claim benefits for the first time whilst others will start to receive pension payments which have been stopped whilst they were in prison.

Frequently asked questions

  • Home insurers will usually ask a policy holder to disclose the unspent convictions of anybody living at the insured address. If they are buying motor insurance, the insurer will normally only want to know about the unspent convictions of anybody who is going to be driving the vehicle or specifically covered by the policy.

  • It varies. Although it is easier to use comparison sites, it can be more risky. With convictions, especially for motor insurance, you have to be careful about what questions (and assumptions) companies ask, and that can be more difficult using comparison sites.

    Also, sometimes when you tick a certain box on a comparison site (like ‘yes’ to non-motoring convictions) this might not transfer over to the insurer that you end up purchasing through.

    So although it takes more time, it can be better to buy directly with the insurer. What you may decide to do is use a comparison site to get a range of quotes, but then purchase directly from the insurer, once you’ve decided who to go with.

  • Insurers take many factors into account when providing insurance quotes so it’s not always the case that your premium will increase due to your criminal record. However. it’s always worth shopping around to make sure you get the best deal you can.

  • You are entitled to ask an insurance company to remove data regarding spent convictions under the Data Protection Act on the basis that it is no longer necessary. When this point is may depend on the company – for example, if they don’t require changes to be notified during a policy (thereby meaning somebody who obtains a conviction during the policy doesn’t have to notify them until renewal) then it is likely that they wouldn’t treat an existing policy as without convictions until the next renewal.

  • Although under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) a question about convictions can be treated as a question about unspent convictions, and an insurer cannot rely on spent convictions to disadvantage an application, an insurer can rely on a non-disclosure made to a previous insurer even if the subject of the non-disclosure was a conviction which is now spent.

    There was a case in 2010 in which a judge ruled in favour of an insurer to cancel an insurance policy mid-term after a non-disclosed conviction came to light. In this case, the claimant had a prior completely unrelated conviction for criminal damage, which he failed to disclose to a previous insurer before it was spent. Subsequently his new insurers relied on his earlier dishonesty as being a factor which entitled them to void his insurance policy. However, there were several other, arguably more serious factors against him such as previous false claims. The judge commented that a single false statement might not have been considered to be significant.

    As a result of this, our view is that if you’ve previously had insurance refused or cancelled because of non-disclosure of a conviction that was unspent at the time, this is something that an insurer might use in the event of a claim or a dispute. You should therefore, when asked about ‘refusals or cancellations’, explain this to the insurer. In our experience, ‘good insurers’ will recognise that, because this now relates to something that is spent, there isn’t a problem. However, it’s better to take this approach than it is in paying for insurance which does not actually protect you, your property or a third party.

  • Occasionally, we hear that people have received letter from their bank, notifying them that they’re closing their account. Often, people think this is because it’s linked to their recent conviction. Sometimes this may be the case, but it can be hard to prove. There doesn’t seem to be any consistency in this area, especially given that banks may not always know about convictions. If you think this might have happened to you, our advice would be to ask the bank directly, and ultimately make a complaint. If you don’t get anywhere, you can then make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

  • Credit ratings agencies do not have access to criminal records. However, as part of the background checking by banks and others, they might check fraud databases such as CIFAS. Also, if you’ve been in prison for some time, you might have a poor credit rating simply because you’ve not been financially active.

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