Sex for rent: Seedy landlords exploit housing crisis

A LANDLORD preying on those needing shelter offered a room in his Byron Bay townhouse to a young woman for free - but only if she was willing to have sex with him once a week.

The by-product of anonymity and the lack of affordable housing is leading people to exploit others in need of shelter - advertisements offering "free rent for services" are springing up across mainstream sites.

These adverts are listed all over the world, and as house prices continue to creep up in Australia, the seedy underbelly of the housing affordability crisis is emerging in this region too.

A young Byron Bay woman (whom The Northern Star has chosen not to identify) looking for a place has an ad on several platforms including Gumtree and the widely-used house share website flatmates.com.

She was simply looking for a room through her ads but said she received "a call from a man on a private number" who asked her "how (she) would feel about having sex with him once a week instead of paying rent".

The woman reported the man didn't tell her his name and said he had told her he owned a three bedroom townhouse which he was "about to put up for lease in Byron".

"(He) said I could pocket the rent from the other housemates," she wrote on Facebook.

"He hung up after I questioned his sanity and (asked) what part of my ad suggested I'd be willing to do this."

She warned others with ad online seeking a room to rent to be very wary of private number calls and said "if you come across this townhouse that's supposedly for lease, be extra cautious with this male".

And this form of "bartering" isn't just in regards to rent according to another resident who commented they knew a woman "who would pay her 'handy man' with sexual favours".

"So it is not a new concept and has certainly been used up here around Byron before," they wrote.

It's easy to find such ads on Australian website Locanto.

"Free rent and unlimited internet in return for sex," one ad states.

"Free living, all bills and rent paid in exchange for regular sex," another says.

"Free rent in your own private room, all bills paid in exchange for regular sex.

Tenants New South Wales advises it's unlawful for a landlord to discriminate by "sexually harassing you in the course of being provided or offered accommodation" or "by ending the tenancy because of your race, sex, gender identity, sexuality, disability, marital status, or age."

Landlords are also banned from imposing discriminatory terms and conditions on a lease, such as limiting the number of people a tenant can invite to visit the home.

Sexual harassment is where a person makes unwelcome sexual advances or requests to another, or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature in a situation where such behaviour is likely to intimidate, humiliate or offend.

Law Foundation online states: "It is an offence in NSW for anyone to advertise sexual services, a sex industry business or sex worker employment opportunities-but these laws are rarely enforced."

While there are advertising policies in place on some popular house share platforms, there are no known prosecutions over "sex for rent" in Australia.

Flatmates.com.au Executive Manager, Simon Hope, said: "Flatmates.com.au have a very strict policy against this type of behaviour in our community and we will issue a permanent ban to anyone found or reported offering these types of arrangements."

"We also have systems and security checks in place to ensure the offender is detected if they try to re-join or re-list on the site.

"Members who are offered these types of arrangements are encouraged to cease all contact with the person and to report their behaviour directly to our moderation team via the report link found on every listing and message."



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