Home Insurance with Convictions Explained

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By Sarah Watts
Updated on Thursday 25 February 2021

A worried woman looking at her computer screen

Home insurance for people with convictions is not as straightforward as it used to be, when criminal record checks (Disclosure and Barring Service checks) did not even exist.

However, in the technologically-advanced 21st century where it’s increasingly difficult to hide or get away with anything, consumers seeking home insurance quotes are asked by insurers to disclose any unspent convictions.

If you fail to disclose any unspent convictions, you could invalidate your home insurance policy and, should you make a claim, your insurer will conduct a DBS check as a matter of course and find out about any unspent convictions.

If a DBS check reveals you have an unspent conviction that you failed to declare to your insurer, your insurance policy will become void and your claim will be refused.

So it’s always best to be completely honest and upfront with insurers about any unspent convictions as otherwise, taking out home insurance is futile and the policy will be worthless.

Arranging home insurance with convictions can be a perplexing task as many people are still unsure as to exactly what a criminal conviction is and are equally unsure of the timeframe for when unspent convictions become spent convictions.

Below, we answer the four most frequently asked questions about home insurance with conviction(s) which are:

Can you get home insurance with a criminal record?

No, very often you can’t get standard, mainstream home insurance with a criminal record. You may struggle to get competitive home insurance quotes or successfully acquire a standard insurance policy with a criminal conviction that has not been spent, as most insurers will see you as ‘high risk’ if you have an unspent conviction and will refuse to insure you as a result.

However, there are home insurance conviction specialist insurers available for those who have unspent convictions, although it will come as no surprise that these types of specialist insurance policies will not be as competitive as mainstream insurance and the premiums are higher.

Having said all of the above, it can very well depend on your situation and the type of conviction you have.

Is home insurance more expensive for people with criminal convictions?

Yes, insurance is more expensive for people with unspent criminal convictions.

If you have an unspent conviction, it’s impossible to get cheap or affordable home insurance from any of the mainstream insurers and you will instead have to seek more costly, specialist insurance.

There are 7.3 million people in the UK with a criminal conviction - that’s a lot of people who potentially can’t obtain home insurance, especially if they can’t afford the more expensive specialist insurance policies.

Certain offences, however, do not count as a criminal conviction, so before seeking home insurance quotes, it’s always best to check if you actually have a criminal record that needs to be declared and if you do have a criminal record, whether or not the conviction relating to that criminal record has been spent.

You do not usually have to disclose Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) or most minor cautions to insurers as these are not classed as criminal convictions. However, if you fail to pay an FPN and are subsequently found guilty at court, the FPN would then become a criminal conviction which you would then have to disclose. It’s always best to double-check if you’re unsure.

Do you have to declare spent convictions to insurance companies?

No, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, you do not have to declare spent convictions to insurance companies.

You only have to declare unspent convictions to your insurer for yourself or anyone living with you in the same property including your partner, children, family members or lodgers.

So if an insurer asks if you have any criminal convictions (but sneakily fails to specifically mention the word ‘spent’), this still means you do not have to declare any spent convictions to them, only unspent ones.

Under the Act, you are not obliged to disclose convictions to insurers (or employers) after a certain time period has elapsed and you are considered to be rehabilitated.

Some of the most serious criminal convictions will never be considered spent under the 1974 Act, such as if you receive a custodial sentence of 4 years or more.

Minor motoring offences like Fixed Penalty Notices and minor cautions are not classed as criminal convictions and do not usually need to be declared. The majority of criminal convictions will not become spent until a period of 5 years has elapsed.

If you already have a house insurance policy but since taking the policy out are convicted for a criminal offence, you must tell your insurer and this may result in your insurance policy being cancelled. If this happens, you should seek specialist conviction insurance which will, unfortunately, attract higher premiums.

To find out more about unspent convictions, take a look at our guide: What is an Unspent Conviction?

Important note: if you are the slightest bit dubious as to whether or not you have a conviction that should be declared, you must make thorough checks to be certain this does not need to be disclosed to your insurer.

To give an example of how important this can be, there was a case back in 2009 involving a woman called Michelle Barber, whose estranged husband burnt down her home. Ms Barber made a claim of £241,000 on her insurance.  However, her insurers Aviva (formerly Norwich Union) discovered Ms Barber had failed to disclose she had been fined £150 for an overpayment of housing benefit a few years before taking out her insurance policy. Aviva voided her policy as a result and are claiming the money back from Ms Barber. Ms Barber made a complaint to the Financial Conduct Authority but at the time of writing this blog, we cannot find details regarding the conclusion to this case.

The point is, however, that there are always going to be ‘grey areas’ which insurers will home in on, especially in the event of a claim being made.

How do I know if my conviction is spent?

If you know the date and can remember the details of your conviction, you can check if it is spent for free by using Unlock's online disclosure calculator (a charitable organisation set up to help people with convictions) .

Another way to check if your conviction is spent is to request a copy of your criminal record via the government’s website. To apply you will need:

  • All UK addresses you have lived at for the last 5 years, including the dates when you lived there.
  • Your National Insurance number (this can usually be found on any DWP or HMRC documentation or letters).
  • Your passport and/or driving licence.

The Disclosure and Barring Service check costs £23 and you should receive your DBS certificate within 14 days of applying.

Important note for tenants:

If you’re a tenant living in a house of multiple occupations (HMO), bear in mind that whilst you may not have an unspent criminal conviction yourself, one of your co-tenants could.

If you go to make a claim on your contents insurance and your insurer discovers another tenant occupying the same property as you has a criminal conviction, this could potentially invalidate your home insurance and your insurer could refuse to pay your claim.

We’d therefore recommend clarifying this point with your insurer before taking out an HMO contents insurance policy as, of course, it will be difficult to be certain that no other tenants have criminal convictions. It’s worth checking with your Landlord if they or their agents made any checks in this regard.

Important note for landlords:

If you’re a Landlord taking out buildings insurance on a rental property, you should always check whether any potential tenant has a criminal conviction.

Should you make a claim on your buildings insurance policy and your insurer discovers that a tenant has a criminal conviction or had a criminal conviction at the time you took your insurance policy out, this could invalidate your policy and your insurer could refuse to pay out on a claim.

If your house is burnt down to the ground, this, of course, would be financially devastating. It’s therefore imperative you (or your agents) conduct thorough checks to see if a potential tenant(s) has a criminal conviction before agreeing to let your property to them.

For further advice and information regarding home insurance, take a look at our useful articles below.

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