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Unlock Category: 5. Insurance, banking and finance

Disclosing unspent convictions to existing insurers

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Aim of this information

This information highlights what you need to consider before disclosing unspent convictions to an existing insurance company.

Why is this important?

The majority of our information on insurance focuses on purchasing new insurance policies and the impact that unspent convictions can have.

However, it’s also important to consider what to do if you have an existing insurance policy and have an unspent conviction. For example, you might just have been convicted, or overlooked the fact that you were asked about unspent convictions when you took out the policy.

If your conviction was unspent when you took out the policy, and you didn’t disclose this when asked, your insurance is potentially invalid.

What you need to consider

Point 1 – Did the insurer ask about your convictions?

Firstly, look at what the insurance company asked you. Take a look at your latest renewal documents. You might have to go back to your original policy documents. You’re trying to work out what you were asked when you last took out a policy with them (this includes your latest renewal).

Remember, you only have to disclose if you’ve been asked.

For example, if you received a theft conviction and were asked by your motor insurer to disclose only motoring convictions, you don’t have to disclose.

If you were asked, you then need to compare when you were convicted with what the insurance company require from you.

Point 2 – When were you convicted?

You then need to consider when you were convicted – was it during your current policy, or before the policy started? This is important, as it will have an impact on what you do next.

Convicted during the policy

If you were convicted during your current policy, you should check your insurers approach to ‘mid-term changes’. Insurers have a duty to inform you within your policy documents of your obligations in terms of disclosing any changes to your circumstances. Unless there is a explicit condition in your policy, you do not have to disclose convictions obtained during a policy, until your next renewal.

Some will ask you to notify them of changes like a conviction, whereas others will say that you need only notify them at renewal. We’ve seen a few that are quite specific about what types of information they need notifying of mid-term, and convictions may be in this list.

If mid-term changes don’t need to be notified, you can continue with your policy until renewal. At renewal, you should find alternative cover (see below).

Convicted before the policy started

If your conviction was unspent when you took out the policy, and you have not disclosed this when asked, your insurance is potentially invalid.

You should decide whether you want to notify your current insurer (and risk your policy being cancelled), or seek alternative insurance before cancelling the policy yourself. Bear in mind that if your policy ends up getting cancelled, this can cause problems in getting further insurance. You may find it useful to call your current insurer anonymously to ascertain what their approach would be to somebody in your situation.

Generally, we would advise that you should look to cancel your insurance and seek insurance elsewhere, as they asked you about unspent convictions and you didn’t disclose (see below).

If your insurance company decides that they want to end your policy, they may give you a period of notice so that you have time to find insurance elsewhere. However, they are not legally obliged to do so where an unspent conviction has not been disclosed.

Why cancel the policy and find alternative cover?

If you didn’t disclose when asked, there is a risk that your existing insurer could cancel your policy due to ‘non-disclosure’.

Instead, we suggest you cancel the policy and find alternative cover. You can do this using the list of insurance brokers that we produce.

Why? Having insurance ‘cancelled’ or refused can create problems further down the road, even once it’s spent. Although once your conviction is spent you do not need to disclose it to insurers, you will normally be asked whether you’ve had insurance cancelled, and the legal position is unclear as to whether the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 covers you in saying “no” to this question if the cancellation relates to a conviction that is now spent.

For more information

  1. Practical self-help information – More information on insurance, including a list of companies that can insure people with unspent convictions, is in the insurance section of this site.
  2. Discuss this issue – Read and share your experiences in the insurance section of our online forum

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information.  You can:-

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum

Criminal records and credit ratings


The majority of lenders use credit reference agencies to share factual information with each other about the credit their customers have and how it’s repaid. Agencies combine these records with information from public registers such as the electoral roll and court judgments to produce your credit report.  The three credit reference agencies operating in the UK are Experian, Equifax and Callcredit.

Any information collected about you is used to compile a credit report which produces a numerical value referred to as a ‘credit score’. This score is important as it is used by many lenders to decide whether or not you are credit worthy.

Since the credit crunch of 2007, credit reports and scores have increasingly become an important consideration for organisations in and beyond the financial industry. Credit scores not only have implications for mortgages, credit cards and loans but can be used by mobile phone companies that provide contracts, car and home insurers and utility companies.

Getting a copy of your credit report

When requesting a copy of your report, credit reference agencies may ask for supporting evidence of your identity if they cannot verify it from your initial application. This inability to verify may be due to a lack of electoral roll evidence or a lack of credit activity. This supporting evidence could be a copy of a utility bill, driving licence, passport, bank statement etc.

You will be asked to supply your address/es for the past 6 years so that the credit reference agency can show you everything that a creditor is able to see about you when doing a credit check. You don’t have to give the dates when you were resident at those addresses to the credit reference agency and if your credit report does not have one of those addresses listed already, by providing it, you are allowing the credit reference agency to add it to your list of previous addresses.

You don’t HAVE to give a previous address just to get your credit report (unlike when applying for credit, if you’ve lived somewhere less than 3 years). However, if you don’t provide it, then you won’t be sent any information held about you at that address. The credit reference agency merely uses the addresses you supply to retrieve information listed on its database about your credit activity at the address/es you give. If you were not credit active whilst in prison that ‘address’ is irrelevant, so you could apply just with the address you are happy to go on record. However, if there is any financial information at an HMP address, this will not be disclosed on the copy of the report that you receive but may come up in a future application for credit.

It is unlikely that failing to declare an HMP address as a previous address when applying for your credit report would be classed as misrepresentation as it could quite reasonably be argued that:-

  • You were asking to see information about yourself only at the addresses you provide
  • There would be no credit history listed about you at a prison address (if you were not credit active)
  • It is not considered a ‘home’ address

Also, you are not legally obliged to tell a credit reference agency anything: the information it holds is provided by the lenders who share details through its database.

Experian have stated to Unlock that they understand the sensitivities around this issue and, as a result, as long as there is no adverse data at an HMP address, they will happily remove any ‘address links’ between these and your residential addresses. However, to kick start this process, you would first need to get a full credit report to enable them to tidy things up.

Applying for your credit report whilst in prison

Experian are able to provide free credit reports to anybody in prison. Citizens Advice caseworkers and others who work with people in prison on issues surrounding unmanageable debt can obtain application forms to obtain free credit reports for people in prison by emailing

A credit report application form must still include proof of identity.  You may be able to use the template contained in PSI 35/2009 (copies available in the prison library) as identification.

Credit score and criminal records

It is impossible to say exactly what effect any information on your credit report will have on a credit application as lending decisions are made by the lenders themselves and not the credit reference agency – although evidence of bankruptcy, County Court Judgments and defaults on loans are not going to help.

Details of criminal convictions are NOT included on a credit report, and therefore, should not directly affect your credit score. However, they can affect you indirectly:-

Closure of a bank account – Banks can close accounts at any time without giving you a reason for doing so. This could be because they become aware of a conviction or because your account becomes inactive for a period of time. The closure of an account may have a negative effect on your credit rating

Prison address – If you had provided a prison address as one that you had been living at, this could flag up to lenders that you have a criminal conviction. We have little evidence to show this happens, but it could technically happen, for example when applying for a mortgage.

Home address – If, as part of your license conditions you have to change address, your credit report could show several different addresses within a short period of time. This may have a negative affect on your credit score as lenders may see this as a sign of instability. In addition to this, not having a fixed land-line telephone number may also have a negative effect on your credit score.

Late payments – If you had debts prior to going to prison, it is important that you make contact with your creditors to inform them of the change in circumstances. Serving a prison sentence may mean that you are unable to meet a payment agreement made with a creditor. Failure to make payments on time will have a negative effect on your credit score, as lenders will see this as a sign of unreliability and poor money management.

Fraud – Information regarding fraud convictions does not have a direct impact on your credit score. However, CIFAS (Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System) may flag your name up to potential lenders. This information is not used to produce your credit score, but it will be included in a detailed version of your credit report. For further information see here.

Improving/correcting your credit score

Under the Data Protection Act, credit reference agencies must provide you with a “Statutory Credit Report” for a fixed fee of £2. You need to provide your full name, date of birth, current address and previous addresses for the last six years.

The statutory report contains your basic credit file and should be posted to you within seven working days although agencies can ask for further proof of your identity before supplying the information. Each agency will provide more detailed information – including in some cases instant, continuing and online access to your file – for a higher fee.

There are measures that can be exercised in order to make improvements to your credit score. For details see Money Saving Expert. You also have the right to dispute any inaccurate information contained on your credit file. The information collected by credit reference agencies is not always accurate, and as a result of these inaccuracies, your credit score may be negatively impacted. To resolve inaccuracies, you must contact each credit reference agency respectively. For more information visit Experian, Equifax and Callcredit.

Funding Opportunities

This is for information only.  We are unable to provide advice on this.  For reasons why, click here.


Seeking funding for a particular purpose is one way to try and rebuild your life. There are a number of options available to people with convictions.

There are, in particular, some funders who specifically provide funding for serving prisoners, those who have recently been released, and those who have recently received a criminal conviction.

There are, of course, other mainstream funding options available, which are not specifically aimed at people with convictions.

There are also funders specifically aimed at education and training.

If you are looking to become self-employed or start up your own business, there is other information available too.

Are you in prison and looking for funding?

  • Speak to your education department regarding educational courses that are available which are supplied by the prison. These are often provided free of charge.
  • There are some funding organisations who will only give funding to approved course providers. Does your course fit this criteria? They may also require a small contribution from you.
  • Ask about any contributions to courses available from the governor (Governors loan)
  • Look at the Prisoner Funder Directory for detailed list of available funders. This is available online, but should also be available through the prison library.

Do you have a criminal conviction and are seeking funding?

  • Take a look at the Prisoner Funder Directory
  • Ask in your local library for “The Guide to Grants for Individuals in Need”. This contains charitable trusts and funders, split both geographically and thematically.

Other funding options

Services provided to people in prison, on probation or in the community

Many organisations that provide services to serving prisoners, people on probation or people with convictions in the community sometimes have, as part of the service that they provide, the ability to cover the costs of funding certain things, such as the costs of training courses, equipment for a particular job, the costs of furnishing for a house.

If you are currently receiving help from an organisation, or have found out about details of organisations that help people in your situation, you should enquire as to whether they have the ability to fund as part of their work.

One notable example of the ability to provide funding is through the HMPPS/ESF Co-financing project (details are available here) where regional and local providers are often able to cover the costs of training and undertaking qualifications as they are being funded to help individuals into these kinds of opportunities and covering the costs is one way in which they can do this.

There are charities which offer grants to people in need based on set criteria – the area in which you live, job sector you work in or intend to work in etc. Turn2Us operate a website which holds details of around 3,000 grants. It allows you to search for any that are available based on your personal circumstances.

Mainstream funding routes

In many cases, the fact that you have a criminal record doesn’t open up any new funding opportunities, but nor should you find that it closes other opportunities down. For example, the fact that you have a criminal record shouldn’t prevent you from getting support in accessing training or courses through your local Job Centre.

People often find that when they move on from the criminal justice system, agencies that work with “offenders/ex-offenders” are limited in what help they can offer. However, you will find other opportunities available, not because you have a criminal record, but simply because you are unemployed, or in need of training or basic skills.

Funding for education and training

The Government operate several means of obtaining funding for education or training.

The Student Loans Company offer financial support to anybody studying in higher education to cover the cost of tuition fees and living expenses. The Student Loans Company do not ask you to disclose details of criminal convictions however, UCAS, with your consent, may share details of your application with the Student Loans Company.

24+ Advanced Learning Loans brings ‘student loan style’ financing to college and training courses. The loan only meets the cost of the course fees and would not cover childcare or living expenses. Eligibility depends on:-

  • The type of course
  • The college or training provider
  • Your age
  • Your nationality or residency status

You will not be asked for details of any criminal cautions or convictions and there are no credit checks required.

The Loan Bursary Fund, which is administered and awarded by individual colleges or institutions provides loans to anybody who has been approved for a 24+ Advanced Learning Loan but requires assistance with expenses. Any eligibility criteria will be set by the individual organisation and will be means tested. You may need to disclose criminal convictions when enrolling for certain courses but, it is unlikely that there will be any need to disclose when making a Bursary Fund application. However, as each college/organisation can set their own criteria you should check both the application form and the small print.

Many colleges offer Discretionary Learner Support Grants to anybody over the age of 19 who faces financial hardship. It is means tested and the amounts available will depend on your personal circumstances. As the application process is different for each college, it is not possible to say with certainty that a criminal record disclosure would not be required. However, is seems unlikely that a college would accept somebody onto a course with a criminal conviction only to deny them finance based on this conviction.

The Government offer financial assistance with travel costs, childcare, equipment or uniform purchase (for specific jobs) from its Flexible Support Fund which can be applied for at Jobcentre Plus offices. Funding does not necessarily need to be in direct relation to education or training, it can be available for difficulties encountered whilst working. The grant is means tested and eligibility will be assessed at an interview conducted at the Jobcentre. The Jobcentre’s Central Enquiry Office have confirmed that disclosure of a criminal record is not part of the general application process but decisions are made on a case by case basis and it would be unlikely that a conviction would negatively affect an application if a disclosure were required.

Professional and Career Development Loans are bank loans that can be used to pay for courses and training that help with your career to getting you into work. Loans offered are between £300 and £10,000 and are offered at a reduced interest rate whilst you are studying. To find out which banks offer loans and request an application pack, contact the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900. You will not be eligible to apply for a Professional and Career Development Loan if you are in prison or a Young Offenders Institution or have been released on temporary licence. If you have been released from prison or a YOI but remain under supervision in the community you would be eligible to apply.

City and Guilds offer a small number of grants to those who wish to study for a City & Guilds qualification. There are only a small number of grants available and City & Guilds will assess applications on a needs basis – therefore a genuine financial barrier to your undertaking a City & Guilds qualification will need to be evidenced. Previous grants have been provided grants for:-

  • Childcare costs
  • Course costs
  • Living expenses whilst undertaking the course
  • Travel expenses

Generally, City & Guilds do not ask any questions about criminal convictions however, you should bear in mind that if you are applying for funding for a qualification which would require full disclosure of a criminal conviction, then City & Guilds may ask specific details about any cautions or convictions. This may influence their decision on whether to grant funding.

Motoring convictions and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Help us – As part of our policy work we’re working on stopping the sharing of spent motoring convictions by the DVLA

Why is this important?

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act applies to a number of areas of life, but particularly employment and insurance.

Motoring convictions are treated slightly strangely under the ROA, when compared with other types of offences.

Motoring endorsements

Sadly, the way that endorsements are treated under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has not been changed by the 2014 changes. This was in large part because of resistance by the insurance industry. Unfortunately, the knock-on effect of this is that it means that they also remain unspent for other purposes, such as when applying for employment. This is an area that we are actively working on, and are keen to gather evidence of where this is having a disproportionate impact for people.

The result is that an endorsement imposed by a court for a road traffic offence is treated as a sentence under the ROA and becomes spent after 5 years (or two and half years where you are under 18).

Every endorsement has a minimum 5 year rehabilitation period. This is even the case for endorsements that only remain on your driving licence for 4 years. The length of the endorsement is irrelevant. Endorsements that remain on a licence for 11 years do not stop the conviction relating to the offence from becoming spent earlier, subject to the other elements of the sentence.

This also applies to endorsements issued by way of Fixed Penalty Notice for a road traffic offence listed in Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (see below for more information).

There remains a lot of confusion about the way that motoring convictions are being dealt with under the ROA, particularly given the way that motoring offences are recorded (or not) on the Police National Computer, and what this means in practice for individuals in terms of applying for employment and insurance. We are working on some specific guidance on this, so if you have any information or experiences that you think would help with this guidance, please send them to

Penalty points

Penalty points imposed by a court become spent when they cease to have effect. Under road traffic legislation, penalty points may be taken into account for ‘totting up’ purposes for three years, hence they have a three year rehabilitation period.

However, it is our understanding that penalty points are only ever issued alongside an endorsement, and so the 5 year period for the endorsement will normally be more relevant.

Driving disqualifications

The rehabilitation period for a driving disqualification is the length of the disqualification. If you are disqualified from driving and at the same time receive another penalty, the longer of the two rehabilitation periods applies.

Driving disqualifications will normally come with an endorsement, so the 5 year period for the endorsement will be applied, unless the period of the disqualification was longer than 5 years, in which case that period will be used to determine the spent date.

If you are banned from driving for seven years and also fined and receive an endorsement on your licence, although the fine becomes spent after 1 year, and the endorsement is spent after 5 years, the rehabilitation period for the conviction would be 7 years.

Motoring fines

A fine on its own under the ROA is 1 year, but for motoring offences dealt with by way of a court imposed conviction, it will normally come along with an endorsement, which has a 5 year rehabilitation period.

Multiple motoring disposals

Where the court imposes more than one sentence or penalty for the offence then the longest rehabilitation period determines when the conviction may become spent.

If you go to court and get convicted with a sentence of a fine, an endorsement, penalty points and a 1 year driving disqualification, the conviction will become spent after 5 years because the endorsement carries the longest period.

Fixed penalty notices for road traffic offences

A Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) can be used to deal with minor road traffic offences, but it is not a criminal conviction or a caution.

However, if you are given an FPN for a road traffic offence in Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, and your licence is endorsed, then (in line with s. 58 of that Act) the endorsement is treated as having been given by a court following conviction of the offence and is subject to a 5 year rehabilitation period, from the date the FPN was issued.

A full list of the offences covered by this are available here. Examples include:

  1. Exceeding the speed limit
  2. Failing to provide a specimen of breath for a breath test
  3. Failing to stop motor vehicle when required by constable
  4. Refusing to give, or giving false, name and address in cases of reckless, careless or inconsiderate driving or cycling

Where section 58 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act does not apply, an FPN is not a conviction. FPN’s do not appear on basic disclosure certificates.

Differences between endorsable and non-endorsable offences

Regardless of whether an offence was dealt with by FPN or whether it went to court, it is important to know whether the offence was an ‘endorseable’ or ‘non-endorsable’ offence, as this will determine whether your licence was endorsed and therefore whether the offence is subject to the 5 year rehabilitation period for endorsements.

We are planning to produce specific guidance on this shortly. In the meantime, the easiest way to find out if you received an endorsement on your licence is by checking with the DVLA. You can contact the DVLA by calling 0300 790 6801 or writing to Drivers Customer Services, Correspondence Team, DVLA, Swansea, SA6 7JL.

Differences between spent periods and licence periods

The length of time that motoring offences stay on your licence is governed by road traffic legislation. This is entirely separate to the time it takes for it to become spent under the ROA. It is perfectly possible for a motoring conviction to become spent under the ROA, but still be on your licence.

If you are fined for drink-driving and have your licence endorsed and receive 3 penalty points, the rehabilitation period would be five years (because of the endorsement), although it will stay on your driving licence for 11 years.

There remains some confusion around motoring offences, the ways in which they link with your criminal record, and the reasons for the DVLA retaining data once it is spent under the ROA. For further information about DVLA records see here..


This is a short information page giving brief details of what happens to your pension whilst you’re in prison. It’s for information only.  We are unable to provide advice on this.  For reasons why, click here.


What happens to my pension whilst I’m in prison?

Retirement pension is suspended when you go to prison. This means that you won’t actually receive any pension payments whilst you are in custody. If you have been held on remand but are not convicted of a criminal offence, you will receive all your pension back payments in a lump sum when you are released. If you are convicted, you lose your rights to a retirement pension until you are released.

You should be able to start a claim for state pension or pension credit just before leaving prison. However, payments will not commence until the Pension Service has received a ‘Notification of Discharge from Prison’ (Form B79).

Will my pension entitlement be affected by being in prison?

While you are in prison and not working or claiming benefits, your National Insurance Contributions will stop. This means that when you come to claim some benefits (i.e. State Retirement Pension), you may not be entitled to the full amount. Some people choose to pay voluntary contributions to plug the gap. However, you will need to consider carefully whether you need to top up. It may not always be right or beneficial for you to pay additional contributions as your entitlement to State Pension depends on how much you’ve already contributed and the date you reach State Pension age.

The amount of basic State Pension you are entitled to is based on your National Insurance Contributions record over your working life from age 16 until State Pension age. Your record comprises National Insurance Contributions paid or credited to you in each tax year. A minimum amount of contributions or credits is required for a year to count as a ‘qualifying year’ towards your overall contributions record.

Qualifying years needed for entitlement to the full basic State Pension

Pension Qualifying Years

How do I know if I have a gap in my National Insurance Contributions record?

‘Gap in your National Insurance record’ letter – If you reach State Pension age before 6 April 2016 you may have received a letter from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) telling you that there is a gap in your record. The letter isn’t a bill – but it will tell you how much you can pay if you want to fill the gap and how you can pay if you opt to do so.

State Pension Statement – The Department for Works and Pensions Future Pension Centre can provide you with a State Pension Statement that will give you an estimate of your State Pension based on current rules. Once you have this you can also tell whether there are any gaps in your National Insurance Contributions Record.

Statement of your National Insurance account – You can ask HMRC for a Statement of your National Insurance account. It will tell you how much, if anything, your gap is, whether you are able to make up that gap, and how you can pay if you wish to do so.

Deadlines for making up National Insurance Contribution gaps

You usually have to make up the gaps within six years of the end of the tax year for which the National Insurance contributions are being paid. However, there are extended time limits for some tax years and special rules if you reach State Pension age either between 6 April 2008 and 5 April 2015 or after 6 April 2016.

When you’re in prison, either on remand or convicted, you are not liable for any National Insurance Contributions and you will not receive any National Insurance credits.

National Insurance contributions – With the exception of those at the end of their sentence and working outside of the prison, prisoners are not liable to pay NI contributions. They can however make voluntary contributions towards their State Pension. Voluntary contributions can be paid up to six years after the tax year in which you were released from prison. If you were self-employed before your custodial sentence, you can continue to voluntarily pay Class 2 contributions.

National Insurance credits – These can be awarded to individuals who are incapacitated and unemployed and regarded as being temporarily out of work. This does not apply to convicted prisoners. This means that, if you do not voluntarily pay contributions after leaving prison to cover any shortfall to your NI contributions, you may receive a reduced State Pension in the future.

More information

  1. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experience on our online forum
  2. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.


Insurance and convictions – A simple guide


This information has been updated in April 2013 to reflect changes in insurance disclosure law, to help you buy the right insurance and make sure you are treated fairly. It provides a quick summary of the issues for people with convictions and what you can do about them. It applies to ‘consumer’ insurance only. This includes home (buildings and contents) insurance, as well as personal motor insurance. For more information, and for details on commercial insurance, we also publish a detailed guide.

Key facts

  1. You only have to disclose convictions if you are asked
  2. If you’re not asked directly, make sure you check any assumptions and terms/conditions of cover
  3. If asked, you DO NOT have to disclose any convictions that are spent under the ROA
  4. If asked, make sure you get written confirmation of what you’ve disclosed

Why am I asked about convictions?

Most insurance companies ask about criminal convictions because they believe it is relevant to the risk. Although this often seems unfair, they are, unfortunately, entitled to ask. If asked, you need to answer this question honestly and accurately. The questions will normally include the convictions of everyone covered by the policy, such as children or a partner. If you are not asked, you do not need to disclose.

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act

Once a conviction is ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), it never has to be disclosed to insurers. This is the case no matter what question an insurer asks you. Detailed guidance on the ROA is available here.

How do I know whether my convictions are spent?

The ROA is very complicated, so it is difficult to know what is protected by the Act. However, there are a number of ways you can work out whether a conviction is spent. You can;

1. Use an online tool we have set up, at
2. Obtain a basic disclosure or police subject access request
3. Work it out for yourself (getting help from our ROA guide)

Find out more about each of these here.

When do I need to disclose?

You will need to disclose unspent convictions when you take out the policy (but only if you’re asked). You do not have to disclose any convictions you get during a policy until renewal, unless there is an explicit condition in your policy.

During 2015, many insurers, brokers and price comparison websites rolled out MyLicence, a database which provides immediate access to information about a person’s driving records.  For further information see here.

What could happen when I disclose an unspent conviction?

Some insurers may refuse to offer you insurance, want to charge you more, or impose special terms. If you already have a policy, your insurer may cancel it and might refuse to pay any new claims and seek to get back the money from any previous claims. Alternatively, they may agree to continue your insurance up until renewal, increase your premium or impose special terms.

What could happen if I do not declare an unspent conviction when asked?

If you are taking out new insurance, or already have a policy, it is quite possible that nothing will happen. However, you may be acting illegally and if your insurer does find out, your insurance could be cancelled or your premium increased. If you have not disclosed, you are not really protected by your insurance.

How might convictions affect making a claim?

If you disclosed everything that you were asked about when you took out the policy, there should be no problem. If you didn’t, your insurance company may ‘avoid’ the policy. This means that they will treat it as if it never existed and will not pay out on your claim. This may leave you unable to replace what you have insured, such as your house, car or business.

What if my insurer refuses to pay a claim?

In some circumstances, you may be able to challenge an insurer who is avoiding your policy. If your insurer cannot settle your complaint, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The FOS deal with complaints in a way that takes account of both the law and industry good practice. They will consider whether the insurer asked clear questions, whether their decision was influenced and whether you failed to disclose recklessly, deliberately, inadvertently or innocently.

Where can I get insurance?

  • Unlock publishes a list of brokers who specialise in insurance for people with unspent convictions, as well as a list of motor insurers who do not ask about non-motoring convictions.
  • There may be other insurers which are able to provide some cover for people with some unspent criminal convictions. Take extra care when seeking insurance from an insurer who does not ask questions about criminal convictions. Check any assumptions and terms/conditions of cover.
  • If you are asked about convictions, ask for written proof that shows you have disclosed your conviction. You can use this if disclosure is disputed at claim stage.

Insurance and convictions – A detailed guide

Aim of this information

This information forms part of our series on insurance and sets out your legal obligations around the disclosure of convictions when taking out insurance policies.

Why is this important

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) ‘spent’ convictions do not have to be disclosed to insurers, irrespective of what questions are asked. However, depending on the sentence, some convictions remain ‘unspent’ for several years (sometimes forever).

Knowing what you legally need to disclose, will ensure that you are adequately insured and that any claims you might have to make will be covered by your policy.


According to government figures, there are over 9.2 million people in the UK with criminal convictions, and one in three men has a conviction by the age of 53. However, few consumers are aware of their legal obligations with regards to convictions when taking out insurance.

As stated above, under the ROA, ‘spent’ convictions do not have to be disclosed to insurers. However, the ROA is very complex, making it difficult for consumers (and insurers) to know what is protected by the Act. However, there are a number of ways to establish whether a conviction is spent.

Many mainstream insurers do not offer insurance where individuals, members of their household, named drivers or others covered by a policy have unspent convictions. There is no obligation to disclose to insurers, unless asked specifically. Nor is there an obligation to disclose convictions obtained during a policy (unless it is an explicit term in the contract). However, customers who do so may find their policy is cancelled immediately.

Although insurers rely on information given to them at application, when a claim is made, this information will be checked. Failure to have disclosed unspent convictions at application and renewal, if asked specifically (known as a misrepresentation) can invalidate an insurance policy and allow the insurer to avoid individual claims and entire policies.

However, in certain circumstances, consumers may be able to challenge the avoidance of a policy. Complaints which an insurer cannot settle directly can be taken to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The FOS deal with complaints in a way that takes account of both the law and industry good practice. They will consider whether the insurer asked clear questions, whether their decision to insure was influenced and whether the customer failed to disclose recklessly, deliberately, inadvertently or innocently.

Since 1999, Unlock has been working with brokers to develop cover for people with unspent convictions. Since then, the charity has been encouraging the entry of new suppliers into the market, aiming for greater competition and better value, as well as pushing for legal changes that would make sure consumers were treated fairly. Unlock publishes a list of brokers who specialise in insurance for people with unspent convictions. It has also worked to increase understanding amongst consumers and encouraged the insurance industry to consider a fairer, evidence-based, approach to unspent convictions.

This guide was originally published in February 2011 to help consumers purchase appropriate insurance and ensure they are treated fairly. At the same time, the ABI published guidance for insurers to clarify their legal obligations and share industry best practice. Unlock’s guide was updated in April 2013 to reflect changes in insurance disclosure law. As a result, this guide now relates principally to consumer insurance. Commercial insurance is dealt with in a separate section.

Why do I need to disclose my convictions?

The duty on consumers to answer questions fully and accurately

Under insurance disclosure law, the onus is on you to answer all questions put to you by an insurer fully and accurately. This represents a recent change to insurance law. Previously, you had to disclose all ‘material facts’, due to the principle of utmost good faith, regardless of whether you were asked a specific question. This change in the law is explained in more depth here.

The relevance of criminal convictions

Most insurance companies ask about criminal convictions because they believe it is relevant to the risk. Although this often seems unfair, insurers are entitled to decide to adjust the price, or choose not to offer cover, as they see fit.

The types of insurance this applies to

The duty applies to ‘consumer’ insurance. This is defined in the legislation as being “wholly or mainly for purposes unrelated to the individual’s trade, business or profession”.

In most cases, it will obvious where it is ‘consumer’ insurance. For example, it will normally include home buildings and contents cover, motor insurance, travel policies and life insurance. It is unlikely to cover insurance policies that have a significant commercial element to them.

It doesn’t cover commercial buildings and contents, public liability, commercial motor or insurance taken out by companies. For this type of insurance, the insurance contract is still subject to a duty of good faith, which means that you will need to disclose all material facts. This is covered in more depth here.

What do I disclose? The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

Rehabilitation periods

Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA), criminal convictions have a ‘rehabilitation period’ based upon the sentence that was applied. In the case of prison sentences, it is based on the length of the sentence, not the time served. The period always starts from the date of conviction and is usually halved if you were under 18 when convicted. The ‘rehabilitation period’ is often much longer than the sentence. More information on the ROA is available here.

How do I know whether my convictions are spent?

The ROA is very complicated, so it is difficult to know what is protected by the Act. However, there are a number of ways you can work out whether a conviction is spent. You can;

  1. Use our online Disclosure calculator.
  2. Obtain a basic disclosure from Disclosure and Barring Service. This costs £18, and only discloses unspent convictions.
  3. Work it out for yourself –  To help you with this you can obtain a copy of your Police record called Subject Access Request (SAR). This is free of charge and provides all information that is held on the Police National Computer (PNC) about you, not just unspent convictions. It doesn’t identify which convictions are spent and which are unspent.

Unspent convictions

During the rehabilitation period, the conviction is ‘unspent’. Convictions resulting in a prison sentence greater than 4 years can never become spent and must therefore always be disclosed.

Spent convictions

Under the ROA, once the ‘rehabilitation period’ is completed the conviction is ‘spent’ and no longer needs to be disclosed when applying for insurance. For the purposes of insurance, “the broad effect of the Act ….is to relieve any proposer for insurance of the obligation to disclose a conviction or even the fact that he had committed the crime.”

In other words, the ROA allows somebody with a spent conviction to lie to any question which, if answered truthfully, would disclose a spent conviction. Section 4(3)(a) states that, “Any obligation imposed on any person by any rule of law or by the provisions of any agreement or arrangement to disclose any matters to any other person shall not extend to requiring him to disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction (whether the conviction is his own or another’s)”.

The ROA does not force insurers to only ask about unspent convictions. However, it does allow an individual to interpret any question about convictions as only relating to unspent convictions. More specifically, section 4(2) of the ROA states that, “Where a question seeking information with respect to a person’s previous convictions, offences, conduct or circumstances is put to him or to any other person otherwise than in proceedings before a judicial authority,

a) the question shall be treated as not relating to spent convictions or to any circumstances ancillary to spent conviction, and the answer thereto may be framed accordingly; and
b) the person questioned shall not be subjected to any liability or otherwise prejudiced in law by reason of any failure to acknowledge or disclose a spent conviction or any circumstances ancillary to a spent conviction in his answer to the question.”

Cautions, reprimands and final warnings

Cautions, reprimands and final warnings are covered by the ROA as a result of changes brought in by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which states that these sentences become spent immediately. As a result, simple cautions, reprimands and final warnings do not need to be disclosed when seeking insurance. Conditional cautions become spent after 3 months.

Fixed penalty notices, pending prosecutions and other elements

The ROA does not cover Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs), pending prosecutions or other elements (such as arrests). Like a caution, they are not criminal convictions. However, unlike a caution, they are not mentioned in the ROA and therefore are not protected by it. However, FPN’s for an endorsable road traffic offence are treated as convictions under the ROA. Read our detailed guidance on the ROA for more information about this..

What an insurer regards as relevant depends entirely on its own underwriting guidelines. Insurers may well regard FPNs, pending prosecutions or other elements as relevant. If they do, they should ask a clear and specific question about them. If you are not asked, you do not need to disclose.

In relation to pending prosecutions, insurers vary in their definition of this term. For example, some might mean an offence that you have been charged with, whereas others might consider an arrest enough. As a result, if the insurer asks about pending prosecutions, and you are unsure about whether you have to disclose a situation that relates to you, you should speak to the insurer for advice.

Do I only have to disclose my own convictions?

You only have to answer the questions that you are asked. Normally, if asked about convictions, the question will relate to all individuals who are covered by the policy. Therefore, in the example of a household policy, the unspent convictions of anybody normally living at the property will have to be disclosed. In this situation, you cannot avoid the issue by putting the policy in someone else’s name.

What if I don’t get asked about convictions?

If you’re not asked, you don’t have to disclose them. However, although insurers are meant to ask clear and specific questions, and so it should be obvious if you’re getting asked about convictions, make sure you check any assumptions, as well as the terms of the cover and your policy documents, to make sure that there is no mention of conviction. Also, take care when using comparison websites. Make sure you look at the specific insurers’ questions, to make sure it hasn’t been pre-populated with a ‘No’ to the question about convictions. Check the paperwork you end up receiving.

What if I don’t want to talk about my unspent conviction?

If you’re asked about convictions, then to be able to obtain a quote, you will need to provide an insurer with enough information to allow them to give you an accurate quote. This information will normally include the offence you were convicted of, the date of sentence and the sentence you received. Insurers may ask for additional information to explain the circumstances surrounding the offence. This may improve an insurer’s ability to offer you a competitive price. If you don’t want to provide it, you’ll have to go elsewhere.

What if I am asked “do you have any criminal convictions?”

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has published a good practice guide for insurers stating that “any convictions” in fact refers to “any unspent convictions”. This fits with a High Court decision in 2002 which stated that it was an unlawful breach of statutory duty for insurance companies to rely on endorsements relating to spent convictions in order to disadvantage a driver. The same applies to non-motor insurances also.

The Financial Ombudsman Service has also stated that if an insurer cancels the policy of a customer who has a spent conviction but whose licence is still endorsed simply because the customer did not disclose the endorsement, it would uphold the customer’s complaint.

What about spent convictions that stay on my driving licence?

Spent convictions can sometimes stay on driving licences long after they become spent.

Even though an endorsement may stay on your licence for longer than the ‘spent’ period (for example, drink-driving endorsements stay on for 11 years), legally you still do not need to disclose it to motor insurers once it is spent.

However, some insurers may discover your endorsement. We often see examples where insurers will use a spent conviction like this to cancel a policy. If this happens to you, you might want to consider complaining to the Financial Ombudsman, and/or the Information Commissioners Office.

Although this remains a problem, the Association of British Insurers is due to start the MyLicence Programme in the summer of 2014. This is expected to replace paper counterparts. MyLicence will give insurers access to accurate data from the DVLA about drivers entitlements, convictions and penalty points when they are providing quotes for motor insurance policies. The MyLicence programme is a joint programme that will be run by the DVLA, the Department of Transport and the insurance industry.  The scheme will work by drivers providing their Driving Licence Number when they apply for insurance and an automatic check will then be done on the DVLA Database. We’ve raised questions about this system, to ensure that they remove any spent convictions. We will be monitoring this closely. For further guidance and information of this scheme please read the ABI MyLicence page.  For further information about DVLA driving records, see here.

What if an insurer says that they need to know about spent convictions?

It is not illegal for insurers to ask about any convictions, though it is industry best practice to ask questions specifically about unspent convictions. However, under the ROA, you are entitled to treat a question about ‘any convictions’ as if it only relates to unspent convictions. If you believe an insurer is not treating customers fairly, you can report the issue to the Financial Conduct Authority’s Consumer Helpline (Telephone: 0800 111 6768).

What if I accidentally disclose a spent conviction?

Even if you volunteer spent conviction information, the insurer is under a legal duty to not take this into account when deciding whether to offer cover and/or the type of cover. If you have been disadvantaged in any way because of a spent conviction, you need to try and get evidence to support this, as you may be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman.

The ABI state that, “It is an unlawful breach of statutory duty for firms to rely on spent convictions in order to disadvantage an applicant. In which case, even if an insurer asked for spent convictions, and details were provided, the insurer wouldn’t be able to use them in their underwriting decision.”

This is based on s.4(3)(b) of the ROA which states that, “A conviction which has become spent or any circumstances ancillary thereto, or any failure to disclose a spent conviction or any such circumstances, shall not be a proper ground for dismissing or excluding a person from any office, profession, occupation or employment, or for prejudicing him in any way in any occupation or employment”

What if I am asked “have you had any criminal convictions in the last 5 years?”

You will only need to disclose convictions in the last 5 years. If you have an unspent conviction that was obtained more than 5 years ago, but isn’t yet spent, you do not have to disclose it, as the question you have been asked does not include such convictions.

What if an insurer only asks for details of certain types of convictions?

You only need to answer the questions that are put to you. In some cases, depending on the question, you may need to speak to the insurer to ask what they mean by a particular term, as definitions vary. Whenever seeking clarification of this type, you should always try to get a response in writing if you plan to take action as a result of the advice.

In any event, you still do not have to disclose any convictions which are spent, even if they fall under the type of conviction being requested.

What if, for motor insurance, an insurer only asks for motoring convictions?

When looking to obtain motor insurance, you will find that many insurers only ask about motoring convictions. So long as you are confident that the insurer is not request non-motoring convictions, you do not need to disclose them.

Have I had insurance refused, cancelled or special terms imposed?

‘Refused’ insurance does not have an agreed definition within the insurance industry. You should ask the insurer for clarification of what they mean when they use this term. However, if an insurer has simply chosen not to insure you because they do not offer cover to people with convictions, you have not been ‘refused’. This is the same as someone who is 25 seeking insurance with an insurer that only insures people over 50.

‘Cancelled’ insurance is when an insurer cancels your contract of insurance during the term of your policy, typically due to the disclosure of an additional material fact that wasn’t disclosed when you took out the policy. This does not include where they inform you that they will not be offering cover following your next renewal date.

‘Special terms’ may be imposed by an insurer in order to reduce the perceived risk. This is when you are offered insurance but not on the standard terms they would normally offer. For example, they may add exclusions that would avoid them having to pay a claim in certain circumstances such as in the event of a theft, fire or a particular circumstance such as damage caused by vigilantism.

Answering questions about refusals, cancellations and special terms

If you have a spent conviction, you do not normally need to disclose anything that would lead to the disclosure of that conviction. The ROA states that “A conviction which has become spent or any circumstances ancillary thereto… shall not be a proper ground for prejudicing him in any way…”

Therefore, if you have only experienced a refusal or a cancellation as a result of a conviction that is now spent, you would think that you could respond by saying ‘no’. However, there does seem to be some doubt about this point, and it’s yet to be tested clearly in court. 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 have 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 is not a problem. They will also be able to consider, particularly where you had insurance refused or cancelled due to non-disclosure of unspent convictions, whether the non-disclosure was deliberate, or where it was deemed inadvertent or innocent. If the latter, they are more likely to take a lenient view and make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

This is a clear policy issue for people with spent convictions, and we are keen to hear of peoples experiences of this situation after disclosing this to an insurer, so please send us your experiences.

If you have an unspent conviction, you have to answer any question put to you fully and honestly. Therefore, if you have had insurance refused, cancelled or had special terms imposed due to your conviction (or for any other reason) you must inform the insurer. If other insurers have simply declined to offer you a quote due to your convictions you do not have to state that you have been refused insurance. But, if you have had insurance cancelled as a result of disclosing a conviction that you should have disclosed when you took out the policy, this will need to be disclosed to future insurance.

When do I need to disclose?

Note: This section assumes that you have been asked about convictions.

When you take out a policy?

If the insurers asks about convictions, you will have to disclose before you take out the policy. Failure to answer the questions put to you fully and accurately could invalidate your policy and potentially lead to prosecution.

During a policy?

This content has moved – For existing insurance policies, and whether to disclose convictions obtained before or during the policy, see our separate information on disclosing unspent convictions to existing insurers.

A conviction that becomes spent during the policy

If you have disclosed an unspent conviction which has now become spent, you will not need to disclose it at your next renewal.

However, whether your insurer will reduce your premiums mid-contract will depend on their policy. For example, an insurer who requires mid-contract disclosure of a new conviction should also take account of a conviction that becomes spent mid-contact. However, insurers that do not require disclosure of new convictions mid-contract might not take account of the fact that a conviction becomes spent during the policy. You should ask your current insurer for their policy on mid-contract changes.

When you make a claim?

Insurance companies normally rely on the information given by the policyholder at the start of the policy. However, when a significant claim is made, insurance companies will investigate. This may extend to requiring you to obtain a basic check.

Although insurers have access to various databases, they are not currently able to obtain an official copy of your criminal record. Therefore, as part of the claims process, you may be asked to provide details of your criminal record. This is to ensure it matches with the information you gave when you took out the policy.

As part of the claims process, you must reasonably co-operate and, if you were to refuse to provide this information, it is possible that the insurer will refuse to pay any claim that has been made. However, this should only extend to convictions that were unspent at the time you took out the policy (or the latest renewal).

What could happen when I disclose when asked?

There are a number of possible responses which an insurer might have to an unspent conviction. This will depend on the insurers approach to convictions and the point at which you disclose.

When you’re getting quotes

The insurer may:

  • Not be able to offer you a quote. This does not mean you have been ‘refused’ insurance. It simply means you don’t fit within their underwriting guidelines. For example, if SAGA chose not to offer a quote to a 25 year old, that person has not been refused insurance.
  • Offer you insurance at a higher premium because they believe it is a higher risk. If the premium is more than you are happy (or able) to pay you should shop around, as not all insurers assess risk in the same way [see the section ‘Where can I get insurance?’].
  • Impose special terms such as a higher excess or a more exclusions and limitations policy.

During a policy

The insurer may:

  • Cancel your insurance immediately. This is more likely to happen if the conviction was obtained before you took out the policy and you did not disclose it when asked.
  • Cancel your insurance but offer you a short ‘grace’ period during which you can arrange insurance somewhere else e.g 7 days. This is more likely to happen if the conviction was obtained during the policy.
  • Continue your insurance but advise you they won’t offer you another policy at renewal. This is more likely to happen if the conviction was obtained during the policy.
  • Increase your premium because they believe the risk has increased. If the premium is more than you are happy (or able) to pay you should shop around, as not all insurers assess risk in the same way [see the section ‘Where can I get insurance?’]
  • Impose special terms such as a higher excess or a more restrictive policy.

When you make a claim

The insurer may:

  • Avoid your policy. If your policy is ‘avoided’ it is as if it never existed. This means that your claim will not be paid. You should receive back any premiums you have paid to the insurer. However, the insurer may seek to recover any previous claims made under the policy.
  • Refuse the claim. Insurers would usually also cancel the policy under these circumstances.
  • Reduce payment. If the insurer would have insured you despite the conviction, but at a higher premium, they may reduce their pay out proportionately. For example, if your premium would have doubled, you may only be entitled to half the total claim value.

What could happen if I do not disclose when asked?

When you’re getting quotes

  • Probably nothing. At quoting stage, insurers rely on the information you give them because it would be too expensive to verify everything you say.
  • However, as explained below, you may not actually have insurance cover and may be acting illegally.

During a policy

  • Probably nothing. During your policy insurers will rely on you to make them aware of any important changes. They will not usually check that you have done so.
  • However, it is possible that your insurer may find out about your conviction by another means e.g. an anonymous phone call or a newspaper report. This could result in the avoidance or cancellation of your policy, or an increase in premium.

When you make a claim

  • You will normally be asked to confirm whether the details you gave when you took out the policy are correct. If you are unwilling or unable to provide this evidence, the insurer is unlikely to pay the claim and may cancel your policy.
  • If the insurer becomes aware that you did have unspent convictions when you took out the policy which you didn’t disclose when asked, they could avoid your policy, refuse the claim, reduce any claim pay outs and you may be prosecuted.

How can insurers find out about my criminal record?

Insurers do not have access to police records. They are unable to do a basic criminal record check on you without your consent.

Generally, when you take out a policy, an insurer will rely on what you tell them. Occasionally, they may ask you provide proof of certain aspects, but this rarely relates to criminal records. In theory, it could. Technically, an insurer could ask you to provide proof of your unspent convictions. This could be done via a basic disclosure that you apply for and then show them. Bear in mind that insurers may have other methods of checking what information you’ve provided them with. For example, they could do an internet search.

However, it’s more likely that your insurer will take more interest in your criminal record when you make a claim. At this point, insurers normally check through with you the details they have. If you tell them something different to what you told them when you took out the policy, they may investigate further. If the claim is quite big, they might do an internet search against your name to see if that flags anything up.

Regardless of whether an insurer becomes suspicious, or if it’s just a routine policy of theirs to check a certain percentage of claims, you need to be clear about the practical way that an insurer can find out about your criminal record.

Up until March 2015, insurers often used ‘subject access‘ requests a way of getting you to provide proof of your criminal record. In March 2015, this practice was made illegal – that practice is known as ‘enforced subject access‘. You have a legal right to refuse to give your consent to a subject access request in this situation.

Now, insurers can ask you to provide proof of your unspent convictions. They should normally do this by asking you to obtain a basic disclosure. There is a £18 cost – you should ask whether they’ll cover this cost of this. However, you might be expected to pay the cost of this as part of cooperating with the claims process.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced guidance for insurers on the ways they can get details of unspent convictions (Note – this is an external link – get more information on our external links)

How might convictions affect making a claim?

When you make a claim on your insurance, your insurer will undergo a claims validation process. As part of this process, they will either go through the details of your policy over the telephone, or send a representative to your home. As part of this, they will normally ask you to confirm that the information you gave regarding previous convictions is accurate.

Where you have disclosed correctly

If you have answered the questions relating to convictions correctly when first taking out the policy (or at the appropriate renewal stage), your claim should proceed as normal.

It may be that, because of the conviction, your insurer decides to look into your claim in greater detail. Although this may be frustrating, you must be seen to be cooperating with your insurer. The presence of a conviction on a policy should have no bearing on whether the claim is paid out, so long as it was properly fully disclosed when the policy was taken out (or at the appropriate renewal stage). See above.

Where you have not disclosed correctly

If you haven’t answered the questions relating to convictions correctly when first taking out the policy (or at the appropriate renewal stage), your insurance company may seek to ‘avoid’ the policy and not pay out.

Insurers are not able to carry out criminal record checks. Therefore, it is common for insurers, when they want to receive official clarification, to require you to provide a copy of your own criminal record (see above).

Where you were not asked

If you were not asked about convictions, any unspent convictions you had before taking out the policy cannot be used by the insurer as a reason for not paying out.

The only rare situation where you may encounter problems is where the insurer is claiming to have asked you about convictions. If this is the case, they would be required to provide evidence of asking a clear and specific question when you took out the policy (or when you last renewed). If this happens, you will be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

What if my insurer refuses to pay a claim due to non-disclosure or misrepresentation?

What is non-disclosure and misrepresentation?

’Non-disclosure’ is when you fail to disclose a material fact when applying for, or renewing, insurance. An example would be if you did not disclose an unspent criminal conviction.

A related term, ‘misrepresentation’ is when you make an incorrect statement. An example would be if you stated that you had a conviction for theft, when it was actually a conviction for fraud or stated that you had been given a community sentence, when you were actually given a prison sentence.

What does it mean if my insurer is ‘avoiding’ my policy?

If a non-disclosure (or misrepresentation) has led an insurer to provide cover where it otherwise would not have done so, the insurer can legally ‘avoid’ the policy. This means they treat the policy as though it never existed. The insurer will not have to pay out on any claim made under the policy. Unless fraud is involved, the insurer will normally return any premiums you have paid.

How can I put an effective complaint to my insurer?

Industry Guidelines

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has previously published statements of practice stating that:-

  • Insurers should ask clear questions about facts they considered material
  • In deciding whether to avoid a policy, insurers should rely only on the answers given or withheld
  • Insurers should only avoid policies where the non-disclosure or misrepresentation was deliberate or reckless, not where it was innocent.
  • Customers are required to answer questions only to the best of their knowledge and belief

What if the insurance company already knew the information?

If the insurer already had the information about your convictions (or if it should have realised that the information you gave was inaccurate) then they should not avoid the policy. For example, you may have advised them of your convictions at a different time or in relation to a different product.

What if I disclosed to an intermediary when buying my insurance?

Many people don’t buy their insurance directly from the insurer. Instead they use an ‘intermediary’ to such as an insurance broker, financial adviser or bank.

Intermediaries are often seen as acting on your behalf because they are seeking the best cover for you from a wide range of insurers. This makes it difficult to argue that the insurance company should know the details you gave the intermediary. You may have to pursue a separate complaint against the intermediary and consider a claim against them in the civil courts.

However, if your intermediary had an arrangement to recommend your insurer, they can be seen as acting on behalf of the insurer. In this case it is difficult for the insurance company to claim that information you gave to the intermediary wasn’t properly disclosed.

What should I do if I think my insurer is treating me unfairly?

You can take a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). The FOS is able to take account of both the law and good industry practice. This can often result in a much fairer outcome for the customer. Visit, email, call 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9 123, or write to FOS, Exchange Tower, Harbour Exchange Square, London E14 9SR.

Before taking your complaint to the FOS you must tell your insurance company that you dispute their decision, and give them the opportunity to rectify the problem. If you remain unhappy after the insurance company has reviewed your case the FOS may be able to help. Your insurance company should provide you with a leaflet and there is more information on their website. There is also more specific information regarding the FOS approach to non-disclosure and misrepresentation here.

Read examples of cases where the FOS found in favour of individuals who believed they had been treated unfairly by Zenith and CIS General Insurance.

Where can I get insurance?

Do all insurers exclude people with unspent convictions?

The attitudes of insurers towards convictions vary enormously. 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.

Can I get a quote from Unlock?

Unlock does not sell insurance. As a charity, we have focused on increasing access to insurance for people with convictions. As a result, rather than becoming a provider ourselves, we have sought to increase provision elsewhere, driving up competition, resulting in prices being driven down. However, we do publish a list of specialist insurance brokers who can help people with unspent convictions.

What is Unlock’s list of insurance brokers?

Unlock helped set up the first insurance broker specifically for people with convictions. Now we have a comprehensive list of specialist insurance brokers, available to download here.

It provides a list of insurance brokers that provide various types of insurance cover to people with unspent criminal convictions. Insurance brokers try to find the best cover for your needs from amongst their own panel of underwriters. Unlock does not approve, endorse or recommend any of the insurers that are on the list. However, all the brokers are regulated by the FCA.

However, please note that there remain some particular situations where it continues to be difficult to find insurance if you have convictions. In particular, certain types of commercial insurance and/or people with convictions for sexual offences.

We also publish a list of motor insurers, which contains details of mainstream motor insurers that do not ask (or ask specific questions) about non-motoring convictions, which means that if you have unspent non-motoring convictions, you may not need to disclose them.

How should I use the list?

Make sure you contact all of the companies that apply to you. If you don’t get a reply straight away, wait a couple of days (it can take time for brokers to place cases with their underwriters) then contact them again.

When making your decision, we advise that in addition to comparing price, you research the companies to see what other customers’ experiences are of the insurers. This will allow you to make an informed choice. Unlock’s online forum may be a helpful way of getting the experiences of other people in similar situations.

If you need to make a formal complaint about a broker, you must write directly to them. If they do not reply satisfactorily, you should then contact the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Are there any other insurers which are not on the Unlock list?

There may be other insurers which are able to cover some people with some unspent criminal convictions. For example, some insurers may have a policy of not taking non-motoring convictions into consideration for motor insurance (even though they do for home insurance). There may also be other specialist brokers that can specifically help people with convictions.

The ability of an insurer to cover you may depend on:

  • How long you have been a policy holder (if you have been with an insurer with a number of years, and have a good claims history, they may still be willing to continue cover)
  • The type of conviction (certain convictions may be considered irrelevant)
  • The length of time since the conviction

Do you have any general advice for people with conviction when buying insurance?

If an insurer doesn’t ask about convictions, or doesn’t ask a specific question that requires you to disclose your own convictions, you should check any documentation that you receive, including the terms of cover, to make sure that the information they have about you is correct. For example, we have seen examples where individuals were not asked about convictions, but then when they were sent the paperwork to sign, the section about convictions has been pre-populated with ‘No’.

If an insurer does ask about convictions, make sure you get some form of written confirmation of the information you have disclosed. This will be helpful in the event of a dispute about what you have disclosed. You should not simply rely on a telephone call being recorded, or being given the name of the adviser you have spoken to. This will not be sufficient evidence to support your claim that you disclosed.

Is it more expensive getting insurance with a criminal conviction?

This is a very common question but there is no simple answer. Disclosure of unspent criminal convictions currently results in most insurers refusing to offer a quote. Therefore, you will have significantly less choice. It also means that standard ‘mass market’ policies, which may be cheap, are not available to you. As a result, it’s not unusual to be faced with more expensive insurance when you get a conviction.

However, securing insurance through a broker can have price advantages. People who have stayed with the same insurance company for years may find their premiums have steadily risen. Asking a broker to secure the best price for you may result in premiums reducing, even with a conviction.

Over the last decade, as the choice of brokers has widened, prices have been driven down. Recently some brokers have begun to offer instant online quoting. By shopping around, it is often possible to match quotes obtained without criminal convictions.

The cost of insurance varies according to many factors and each insurer has a different approach. You may find that other factors (e.g your postcode or what you are trying to insure for) are more influential than your conviction. However, it remains the case that many people experience a significant increase in the cost of insurance when disclosing an unspent conviction.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information on insurance can be found here
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Get involved

Help us to add value on this information. You can:-

  1. Comment on this information (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, the Record


List of insurance brokers


  • We have been developing access to fair insurance for people with convictions since 2000. Since then we have worked hard to make it easier for you to get genuine cover at a fair price.
  • Unlock is an independent charity, and so we do not provide insurance directly. We are not FCA regulated and so we’re not able to provide specific insurance advice.
  • The list provides details of a number of insurance brokers that provide specialist insurance to people with convictions
  • The list sits alongside guidance on insurance and convictions and a list of motor insurers for those with non-motoring convictions.

Advice on using the list

All of the companies on the list have confirmed to Unlock that they:

  1. Do not require individuals to disclose spent criminal record information (in line with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974)
  2. Are able to offer individuals, on request, written confirmation of the information they have disclosed regarding criminal conviction


Adrian Flux Insurance Services0800 089 sexual offences
AJG0800 496 3255insurancepolicyadmin@aig.comYesYesNoNoNoNoNone
Anchor Underwriting020 8418 offences
BG Insurance01892 offences & fraud
Bond Lovis Insurance Brokers0800 011 3444
0845 077 8800 sexual offences
Bureau Insurance Services01424
Collingwood Insurance Service0345 470
Complete Cover Group Limited0800 112
CoverBuilder0333 358 offences & terrorism offences
Coversure Insurance0330 124 offences
Culpeck Insurance Services Limited01733 sexual offences
Delite Insurance Agency01634 offences
DNA Insurance Services Limited0844 573 offences
Fresh Start01483
GMI Insurance Services020 8850 offences
Guildhall Brokers & Consultants Limited020 8446 than 5 unspent convictions
H & R Insurance Services0845 130, theft, dishonesty, handling stolen goods
HomeProtect0845 155
Insurable0845 077 offences
Insurance Choice01926 offences, some fraud, theft & robbery offences
Insurance Factory0844 573 offences
Intelligent Insurance03333 11 11
Keith Michaels Plc020 8329 1163
020 8329 1158 offences & fraud
LMI Limited0845 260 offences
MyFirst UK0333 305 5116enquiries@myfirstuk.comwww.myfirstuk.comNoNoYesNoNoNoNone
Need to Insure Limited01623
One Insurance Solution0845 034 offences
Park Insurance0117 955 offences
Peacock Insurance Services02476 offences
Richard Weston Limited020 8543
Sky Insurance Brokers0330 333 offences
Sale Insurance Services Limited0161 969




List of motor insurers

Help us – As part of our policy work we’re working on stopping the sharing of spent motoring convictions by the DVLA


  • We have been developing access to fair insurance for people with convictions since 2000.
  • Since then we have worked hard to make it easier for you to get genuine cover at a fair price.
  • Unlock is an independent charity, and so we do not provide insurance directly. We are not FCA regulated and so we’re not able to provide specific insurance advice.
  • We have published below a list of motor insurers.
  • The list is based on the feedback we’ve received from clients who have obtained insurance from mainstream providers of motor insurance.
  • It should be read alongside our guidance on insurance and convictions, and the list of insurance brokers.

Advice on using the list

  • Since April 2013, for personal insurance, if the company doesn’t ask you about convictions, you do not have to tell them
  • Many motor insurance companies ask about non-motoring convictions. Where they do, even if you think it’s not relevant, you must disclose (although only what is unspent)
  • However, some mainstream insurance companies do not ask about non-motoring convictions (remember to check any assumptions or terms/conditions of cover)
  • So long as your convictions don’t fall within the questions that the company are asking, you do not have to tell them.
  • The list contains details of some of the major personal motor insurance providers who do not ask about non-motoring convictions (unless otherwise stated)

If you find that any of the details are incorrect, or have suggestions of further additions to this list, please let us know by emailing

In the majority of cases, details of any motoring offences can be found on your driving licence. After a certain time, they may not appear your driving licence as they may have been removed by the DVLA. However if the company asks, you must declare all offences in the past five years, even if they have been removed from your licence.

“I have struggled for many years trying to get adequate insurance at an affordable price, this has been almost an impossible mission, so the latest changes in legislation, and not having to disclose unspent convictions, is a breath of fresh air and has reduced the cost significantly.

When searching, I have to be mindful of declaring my unspent conviction. However, I came across Diamond Car Insurance for Women and using the ABI Guidelines, I was able to secure pretty much the lowest insurance policy I could find. They don’t ask for any non-motoring convictions on their website quote generator and when I contacted them to go over the details, they did not ask on the phone.

I have looked through the policy schedule and there are no assumptions. I have looked through all the paperwork and there seems to be no indication of non-motoring convictions mentioned.

This may be useful to any females using the site or to males looking at being named drivers on relative’s cars.”

Download: List of motor insurers [PDF]


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