Published: 17:30, 12 September 2018
| Updated: 13:04, 13 September 2018
by Claisse Opulencia
Cash-strapped students are being offered ‘sex for rent’ deals by Canterbury landlords.
More than 10 landlords in the city have admitted taking on female student tenants under the ‘sex for rent’ arrangement.
Landlords offering free rooms in exchange for sexual services could face criminal charges.
These "deals" might seem attractive to vulnerable students who cannot afford the rising rent fees of student accommodation, but police warn the arrangement could be illegal.
Claisse Opulencia, editor-in-chief of Canterbury Christ Church University student newspaper, went undercover to search for the landlords on the advertisement site Craigslist.
Moments after the advert was posted, multiple Canterbury house owners offered a free room in exchange for sexual favours.
One Harbledown landlord listed various requirements that his "tenants" would need to provide him.
He said: “A ****job a day, an hour each day you wear what I want around the house (could be underwear, naked or whatever I want)."
The landlord also asked for sex once a week.
Going undercover as ‘Isabelle’, Claisse discovered shocking offers from landlords as to their ‘sex for rent’ deals.
A landlord admitted to having properties close to the Canterbury university campuses, University of Kent and Christ Church University – and that his tenants are mostly students.
He said: “I have some near Asda, I usually charge £380 (pm).
“But if you’re serious then I’ll let you stay rent free.”
August is the time where ‘sex for rent’ landlords tend to search for new tenants, as students are leaving the city after graduation.
Another Canterbury landlord offered a room to stay as long as she was ‘willing to give herself’ to him.
He previously had a ‘sex for rent’ arrangement with a student who recently finished university.
A Canterbury man responded to say that ‘Isabelle’ could live in his room if she could afford the rent. If not, she had to pay through massages and ‘intimate services’.
He said: “Two to three times a week and full service (massage). You could tell me what you’re happy to do.
“So two to three times a week, massage and sex.”
Canterbury homeowner Owen* called, as he wasn’t keen discussing the ‘deal’ via text messaging.
Owen is in his late twenties who has had female students as his previous ‘tenants’.
The young landlord said: “I’ve had one before who was an international student, she stayed with me for eight months. She’s graduated now. She got what she wanted and so did I.”
He claims that he was intimate with her about four to five times a week – and encourages me to ‘behave the same way’ when I move in with him.
“As long as you kept the place tidy, don’t mind showering with the door open, wearing your underwear around the house, then you get the idea…”
Most of these landlords believe that what they’re doing is completely fine. However, sex-for-rent could be illegal.
There is no specific law stating that a tenant offering sex as payment for rent is illegal. But, it can be classified as incitement into prostitution.
If convicted, a person can face seven years in prison in England and Wales.
Claisse got in contact with every single landlord that offered her a ‘sex for rent’ deal, this time as a journalist.
Out of the 18, only one person responded. Others had blocked her number completely.
When asked, Gary* from Canterbury said he believed he wasn't doing any harm to anybody and simply helping out people in need.
He added: “I would never force anyone to do anything they didn’t want to.
“It’s a win-win situation. I’ll help the person out and she can help me out. I have needs too and I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
Ellen Moran runs a campaign against sex-for-rent. She’s pleading for a change in the laws so that any sexual arrangement between a landlord or a tenant is illegal – set out in black and white. Therefore landlords could be prosecuted.
She told the BBC: “In our society, it seems acceptable for people to wield their power over the vulnerable in order to get what they want.
“The authorities need to publicly recognise that it is a crime and act on that by prosecuting in order to dissuade perpetrators.”
Kent Police urges people to report any cases of sex for rent landlords. They promise that landlords who participate in this exchange will be investigated and even prosecuted if a criminal act has been committed.
"Landlords who advertise rooms in exchange for sexual favours are actively targeting vulnerable people" - DCI Lee Whitehead
Det Chief Inspector Lee Whitehead of Kent Police said: “Landlords who advertise rooms in exchange for sexual favours are actively targeting vulnerable people, and I would urge anyone who is being exploited in this way to please report it to us.
“Organisations including Shelter and Citizens Advice provide support for those struggling to find affordable accommodation, including students living away from home who need not put themselves at risk by responding to such adverts.
“Any incidents reported to Kent Police will be fully investigated to establish if any crimes have been committed, and officers will work with the Crown Prosecution Service to charge offenders and bring them before the courts.”
Claisse Opulencia is editor-in-chief of Unified, and a third year multimedia journalism student at CCCU.