An MP is demanding advertisers and websites take action to prevent private landlords in Scotland targeting vulnerable women by offering free rent in return for sex.
Using online adverts which are often explicit about the nature of the deal on offer, men suggest housing can be secured for free in return for company, nudity or sexual acts, The Herald has reported.
Alison Thewliss MP has described the use of such deals, which appear to be legal, as sickening and appalling.
On one site, Craigslist, which allows anyone to advertise almost anything, for free, a man in Edinburgh is currently offering a whole flat at no cost to a woman, he says. “This offer isn’t open to guys.”
The unidentified 27-year-old adds: “Instead of taking any money we can discuss another way you could show me your appreciation.”
Much more blunt is “sub male” who offers a free room in Clydebank “in exchange for small favours” according to his listing.
He elaborates: “Favours I would appreciate include things such as giving naughty flashes of your body, always teasing me, leaving your shavings whenever you shave your legs etc.”
He says sex will not be involved “unless of course it is something that you would like”.
Another man advertising a two-bedroom flat in Arbroath again specifies it is for a “lady” only. “I am not asking for any rent whatsoever,” he says, describing what’s expected in return innocently. “Friendship, help with cleaning … romance if we have good chemistry”.
Because such an arrangement might be voluntary, or appear so, police often feel no offence is being committed, until someone is forced to do something against their will or feels they are being exploited.
But charities and campaigners are alarmed at the phenomenon which they say leaves such “tenants” vulnerable and often unaware what they have agreed to.
Alison Thewliss MP said: “This is absolutely appalling and it’s sexual exploitation. These sickening adverts raise some very serious questions, particularly for those adverts who are providing a platform for these desperate individuals.”
Liz Ely, co-director of Zero Tolerance Scotland, added: “We will continue to see men abusing their position in this way until concrete steps are taken to solve the housing crisis. To prevent men’s violence against women, we also need secure and affordable housing.”
A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: “People should always be careful in replying to adverts of this nature. If a person feels they are being exploited or coerced they should contact the police.”
John Blackwood, chief executive of the Scottish Association of Landlords (SAL), said: “SAL would in no way condone any practice by landlords which might exploit vulnerable people. The overwhelming majority of landlords in Scotland are responsible.”
A Scottish Government spokesman added: “We always keep our laws under review to ensure they can deal appropriately with sexually exploitative behaviour.”