The Scottish government has been called on to do more to prevent an increase in adverts offering sex from tenants in lieu of rent.
According to surveys by housing charity Shelter and ComRes, as many as 30,000 women were propositioned with ‘sex for rent’ offers across the UK since the start of the lockdown last March, with online platform Craigslist highlighted as partly responsible.
It is illegal for a property owner to demand sexual favours in return for rent or accommodation, yet Labour MP Peter Kyle, the shadow UK justice minister and MP for Hove, said no one has been arrested or convicted for the offence.
Kyle highlighted that the problem is severe in high-rent areas such as Oxford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, and Brighton – and has been made worse by the Coronavirus crisis.
He said: “These predators see every crisis, both personal and public health, as an opportunity for exploitation. These people shouldn’t be free to advertise their crimes, they should be before a jury answering for their crimes.”
Singling out US-based Craiglist in particular for criticism, Kyle added: “They are profiting from the sexual exploitation of young people. Journalists have tried contacting them, government officials have tried, and I have numerous times, but they don’t bother responding.
“Put simply, they’re acting like pimps, so why aren’t we treating them as such?”
Kyle continued: “They make millions out of a squalid transaction which if it were in a street or neighbourhood will trigger immediate police action, but because it’s online… nothing. Yet the abuse, coercion and exploitation is very, very real.
“This is a big problem, and I hate what it says about the challenges many find in society right now.”
Sean Clerkin, from the Scottish Tenants Organisation, said: “We are calling on the Scottish government to contact the UK government to urge the American authorities to ban this platform advertising sex for rent in Scotland and throughout the rest of the United Kingdom to protect vulnerable women. These predatory landlords have to be eradicated.”
The Scottish government said any private landlord offering to rent properties in exchange for sexual activity should be reported to the relevant local authority, adding that evidence of this type of arrangement should be taken into account in determining whether a landlord is a fit and proper person under the law relating to landlord registration and licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation.
Where a local authority determines that an individual is not, or is no longer, a fit and proper person, they cannot lawfully let their property.
Image credit: Boyloso/Shutterstock
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