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Over 250,000 women have been asked to exchange sex for rent

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Stylist Team
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The problem of sex for rent – where landlords expect their tenants to pay for properties with sex – is impacting a quarter of a million women. 

An undercover BBC investigation recently caught two male landlords offering sex for rent deals to women on camera. 

The Ministry of Justice said the actions of the two landlords, who live in Bristol, is illegal. Simply placing an advert offering a sex for rent arrangement can carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.

But while the footage has caused outrage on social media, it is merely the tip of the iceberg. In fact, over 250,000 women have had a landlord ask them for sex or sexual favours in the last five years, according to a poll released earlier this year by housing charity Shelter.

And in the last year, 3% of female renters had been offered sex for rent – a number that equals around 139,314 women in the last 12 months alone. 

“My landlord showed up nightly, sitting in my bedroom and refusing to leave,” one woman said. “My landlord made a pass at me while his wife was asleep upstairs,” said another. One woman received a text from a landlord, saying she could “have [the property] for free if I performed an explicit sexual act with him”. 

Others faced “uninvited touching” and “creepy behaviour”, as well as the overstepping of boundaries, The Times report. “My landlord asked me for sex when I could not pay in full rent for one month. The following month I still could not afford full payment and I still refused to make love with him so he threw me out,” they report one woman said.

Stylist.co.uk also found a number of ads currently listed on Craigslist’s London sites offering (or implying) an exchange of sex for rent. One landlord writes that he is “not looking for much of rent but other favours”; another, listed at £75 per month, suggests that “we can have an arrangement that is suitable to us both” and asks applicants to send “a photo or 2” when getting in touch. One ad, from a “forties divorcee of some years”, even points out that the flat’s location has “good transport and easy [access] to Goldsmiths and Kings College”, suggesting the landlord is particularly interested in young women. 

Previous work from journalist Vonny Moyes revealed hundreds of adverts offering free or discounted rent in exchange for sexual favours: “I have a nice room available in London for a girl who enjoys being a dirty little slut,” one advert read.

“Offering a room in my house and free use of shared facilities for woman housemate willing to carry out household chores naked or in sexy lingerie,” said another.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, told Stylist.co.uk: “‘Sexual harassment by landlords is a disgusting symptom of the train-wreck that is private renting. In the face of crippling high rents, a drought of affordable homes and few protections against eviction – a dangerous minority of criminal landlords are clearly abusing their power.

“Offering ‘Sex for rent’ is illegal, and preys on women in desperate situations. Women who rent are often not in a position to act against the minority of landlords who do cross a line - whether that’s proposing sex instead of rent, entering homes unannounced, or sexual assault.

“This exploitation must end. Tenants need to be empowered to act against this criminal behaviour, and accusations must be dealt with seriously by the police. Ultimately renters need better protections all round: longer tenancies would provide tenants with more stability and enable them to speak out without fear of eviction, while building more homes that are affordable to rent would also give tenants the option to move out if they need to.”

Image: Andras Vas