One-in-ten poor female renters have been propositioned for ‘sex for rent’ by predatory landlords

5 December 2022, 15:10 | Updated: 24 April 2023, 13:32

Alicia Kennedy the Director of Generation Rent speaks to LBC

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

More than 200,000 female renters are thought to have been victims of ‘sex for rent’ offers at some point in their lives.

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The shocking figures come from Generation Rent and Mumsnet, who asked women about their experiences of predatory landlords.

Some 1,045 respondents took part, with 4% (one in 20) saying they had been offered either free or discounted rent in exchange for sexual acts.

Over 200,000 women have become 'sex for rent' victims, the study found
Over 200,000 women have become 'sex for rent' victims, the study found. Picture: Generation Rent

Alicia Kennedy, Director of Generation Rent, said: “I feel sick about it, it is completely unacceptable for a woman or man who is financially insecure, who’s struggling to pay their rent, to feed their kids and avoid homelessness; for their landlord to try and take advantage of the situation by seeing if they can get a few sexual favours.

“No one should be forced into this through circumstance or coercion, yet we have also seen the number of people propositioned for sex for rent increases the lower your household income.”

That fact is clear in the figures. While the overall number of women falling victim to sex for rent offers was one in 20, the number jumped to one-in-ten amongst women whose annual household income was less than £20,000.

Read more: LBC uncovers London landlords who exchange sex for rent

Jamie Klingler speaks to LBC on 'sex for rent' story

Jamie Klingler, co-founder of Reclaim These Streets, which campaigns for women’s safety, told LBC it’s a clear sign that in times of hardship those on the ‘lowest rung’ suffer the most:

She said: “They are the people who are the most vulnerable, and who are the people at most at risk of sexual abuse and other abuse.”

“I’m all for legalising sex work, but not when it’s done like this and it’s just forcing people to give their bodies to get heat, or to literally not be on the streets.

“This is stuff that should not be happening in the UK, but more and more people are making these sorts of choices to try and feed their children."

Some women went into detail about their experiences. One said: “After having a landlord who knew I was struggling with the rent, offered to knock £150 per month off the rent for sex - I almost considered it, thinking I could lay there and let him do this to me - but after thinking about how I would deal with this long term - wisely decided to decline the offer.”

“I only know one person this happened to. They had particularly vulnerable characteristics - they were a migrant who spoke limited English. I think it’s important to note some people at risk of this behaviour will be particularly vulnerable making the need to protect them even greater.”

“Both times the landlord has used my poverty (being a student then being a young person fleeing abuse) to ask for sex/make lude comments, knowing I depend on a reference from him to move elsewhere”

“Most of the situations I am aware of or experienced myself regarding ‘sex for rent’ occurred in student properties, and I would suggest that particular attention is given to this sector of the rental market.”

Sex for Rent’ was clarified as a sexual offence in 2017, but despite how common it clearly is, only one person has ever been convicted.

Campaigners say the wording of the law makes getting a conviction extremely difficult, because victims must self-define as ‘prostitutes’ to get justice.

In March 2022, the Government committed to launching a public consultation the summer around making a dedicated and specific ‘Sex for Rent’ law.

But nine months, and two prime ministers, later no consultation has taken place.

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove, tried to make this a specific offence in 2021 with an amendment to the Policing bill, he told LBC the Government has “kicked the issue into the long grass” and “doesn’t have the bandwidth” to tackle it properly.

He believes the law now needs to be better enforced to bring about more prosecutions, but that a bespoke ‘sex for rent’ law would de-stigmatise the experience for victims:

“Because the moment they are being classed as prostitutes, we need to make sure we have an offence that is actually fit for purpose right now.”

The Home Office said in a statement: “Exploitation through ‘sex for rent’ has no place in our society and there are existing offences in the Sexual Offences Act which have been used successfully to prevent this practice.”