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Lords urged to act to protect renters from sexual predators

Written by: Emma Lunn
Generation Rent says predatory landlords are advertising rooms in exchange for sexual favours instead of rent.

The tenants campaign group is calling on the House of Lords to change the law to protect vulnerable renters.

A search on the Craigslist website uncovered landlords around England offering accommodation for free, but with other “payment” expected. These advertisements are open, explicit and for all to see, and some have used covid as a marketing technique.

Some use euphemistic language, including: “you can pay in other ways if you want”, “we can come to an arrangement”, “females only…terms apply”, “free for the right lad”, “text me for more details”.

The adverts are aimed at both men and women. One says, “I am gonna offer this room for only [£2 per week] because of Covid-19. I know how hard it could be for you guys to find a place specially if you are not working”. The advert goes on to say the room is “only for women” and “some favour in return expected”.

A report in January from Shelter suggested that as many as 30,000 women had been offered “sex for rent” between March and September 2020.

Offering accommodation in return for sexual favours is a criminal offence, but only one person has been charged for it, in February 2021. This is despite it being an issue that campaigners, journalists and politicians have raised for years.

It can be difficult for a victim of this practice to come forward as for a prosecution they need to be defined as a prostitute.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede has tabled amendments to the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is at Committee Stage in the House of Lords. The amendments are due to be considered on Monday 22 November.

The amendments would specifically criminalise sex for rent landlords and will implement financial penalties on websites and platforms who host sex for rent advertisements.

Alicia Kennedy, director of Generation Rent, said: “These sexual predators are deliberately taking advantage of people’s desperation to find a home. The House of Lords has a huge opportunity to protect some of the country’s most vulnerable renters by specifically taking action against this horrific crime.

“No one should be forced by coercion or circumstance to exchange sexual acts for a roof over their head. That’s why these amendments have to go hand-in-hand with policies that provide more homes at affordable rents, an increase in social housing, and the provision of a welfare system where the benefit received actually covers the rent owed. Public policy is leaving too many people in dangerous situations.”

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