Sex-for-rent landlords warned 'law is not on your side'

Sex-for-rent landlords warned 'law is not on your side'

A human rights lawyer is warning landlords that asking for sex in lieu of rent is a criminal offence.

Noeline Blackwell, who is also chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, warns sex-for-rent landlords that the law is not on their side.

“It's not a criminal offence to sell sex, but it is to buy sex. Buying sex with accommodation is the equivalent to buying it with money. The law around sexual abuse and rape is simple and comprehensive. If sexual activity occurs without free and voluntary consent, that is sexual abuse."

Ms Blackwell said that the 2017 Sexual Offences Act clearly states that sexual consent must be given freely and voluntary. But if someone is consenting to sex for survival or for shelter, that sex is not free or voluntary.

“These people are being coerced into doing something — they may not be hauled into the house but it is still coercion — sex is not free and voluntary in most of these cases, consent is given for basic shelter."

“And someone is abusing their capacity to provide that shelter. It's not a crime to offer your body for something, the crime is on the other end. And even if people don't report it it may well be a criminal offence," she cautioned.

Last week, The Echo revealed that landlords in Cork are asking for sexual favours instead of rent via online adverts.

Although data on the issue is limited in Ireland, in Britain research found 140,000 incidents of people being propositioned for sex in return for accommodation over two years.

Ms Blackwell said that although landlords may be committing criminal offences in the jurisdiction, the chances of the tenant reporting the crime to gardaí are currently very low.

“People in this situation are generally very vulnerable, if they report their landlord they will lose shelter and have to deal with a court case and everything that goes with that. There will never be full reporting of sexual offences, but in these cases, where someone will lose their income, their home, their capacity to feed themselves, reporting it to gardaí is highly unlikely.

If someone is desperate enough to agree to this arrangement in the first place, the chances are that they need to be in a strong enough position to get out of that situation before they can report anything.

She said that the phenomenon is “a worry” and welcomes a survey by the Residential Tennancy Board (RTB) which is due this year in which tenants will be asked about their experience of sexual harassment from landlords or in rented accommodation.

“The Residential Tenancy Board is going to do a survey about whether sexual favours are being sought by landlords. Trying to understand the problem better is the very next step," she said.

She said that the Rape Crisis Network has been receiving calls from worried tenants about "inappropriate" behaviour from landlords.

“It has been happening for a while but we're starting to hear more about it. What we hear anecdotally on the helpline from time to time is about people who are abusing their position and their power. Landlords who are being too familiar with tenants, turning up unannounced and being inappropriate."

She urged anyone who believes they may have suffered sexual exploitation or abuse to call the Network's 24-hour confidential freephone number on 1800 77 88 88.

A spokesperson for the RTB said that it is developing a survey to examine the specific issue of ‘sex for rent’.

They said: "Given the very sensitive nature of this issue and the need to ensure that the survey conducted is both ethically compliant and adheres to best research practices and protocols, there are several requirements that are in progress before fieldwork can be commenced."

"The RTB are also in consultation with the Rape Crisis Centre and with our research partners to ensure that research conducted will also give an appropriate response rate in order to effectively report on the matter. These issues are in progress.

"The RTB believe that any form of sexual harassment, intimidation or inappropriate behaviour in a person’s home is very serious.

"Aside from the RTB trying to gain a better understanding of the prevalence of this issue, it is important that tenants understand that they have certain rights. In the first instance, for any criminal matter this should be referred to the Gardaí for investigation."

More on this topic

Cairn Homes shares rise 2% on sales and buybackCairn Homes shares rise 2% on sales and buyback

Cork City Council facing €1m emergency accommodation bill after refusing 29 social housing applicantsCork City Council facing €1m emergency accommodation bill after refusing 29 social housing applicants

Cork City facing €1m bill to accommodate people it turned down for council housingCork City facing €1m bill to accommodate people it turned down for council housing

Almost 95% of private rentals outside of HAP limits - Simon CommunityAlmost 95% of private rentals outside of HAP limits - Simon Community


More in this Section

Woman, 40s, dies following crash in Co DownWoman, 40s, dies following crash in Co Down

Two arrested in relation to eight burglaries in Limerick and TipperaryTwo arrested in relation to eight burglaries in Limerick and Tipperary

Search operation underway in Cork after reports of car entering riverSearch operation underway in Cork after reports of car entering river

Taoiseach insists Ireland is a ‘safe’ country despite week of violent crimeTaoiseach insists Ireland is a ‘safe’ country despite week of violent crime


Lifestyle

The actor knows how to impress when it comes to high profile events.6 times Katie Holmes wowed on the red carpet

Glamour, fun and feathers all feature in this year’s hottest looks – but first and foremost, individual style rules.10 on-trend ways to transform your home in 2020

Abi Jackson shares the enduring appeal of Pooh Bear’s wisdom on Winnie-the-Pooh Day – author A.A. Milne’s birthday.Winnie-the-Pooh Day: The wellbeing lessons we can learn from Pooh Bear

We asked three experts for the low-down on shampooing frequency.How often should you really wash your hair?

More From The Irish Examiner