Rogue landlords in Wales are offering free or discounted accommodation in exchange for sexual favours. It is a new phenomenon, dubbed ‘sex for rent’.
In an exclusive undercover investigation, which can be seen on S4C tonight, ITV Wales’ programme Ein Byd, found that many of the arrangements are being offered on the classified advertisements website, Craigslist.
While hosting the adverts is not illegal, according to the Ministry of Justice these arrangements are.
Posts seen by ITV Wales include a man advertising a free room in Cardiff “for a female with whom I can come to an arrangement”. Another advert for a two-bed bungalow in Newport said, “rent greatly reduced in return for favours”.
Of the many adverts seen, one particular man was offering a place to live for £650 a month.
However, his advert also included the words, “Reduced deposit/rent arrangement for alternative payments negotiable”. After exchanging a series of e-mails with Ein Byd’s undercover journalist, Siân Thomas, he stated that he was looking for a “friends with benefits arrangement”. Our journalist went to meet him wearing a hidden camera:
During the meet, the man offered a one-bed annex, free of charge, in return for sex once a week.
According to the Ministry of Justice, this sort of arrangement is illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The law states a crime is committed when a person causes or incites someone to become a prostitute.
After the meet, Ein Byd’s reporter Siôn Jenkins confronted the man for his response to the arrangement offered. Within a few hours, we received an email from him, imploring us not to broadcast the footage and “expose him for a monster”:
I should have trusted my gut and not done this. I’m such a fool, but this will ruin everything I have left everywhere. I have absolutely no intention of ever even considering doing this again, tonight has really given me a reality check and I’m ashamed of myself. Please don’t expose me for a monster.
He also said that it was important to "come clean" and he would never have been able to go ahead with the arrangement, saying "I don’t own any other houses other than my family home."
As part of the investigation, undercover journalist Siân also posed as someone looking for a place to live. The advert posted on Craigslist included the words “happy to pay in kind or come to an arrangement”. During the course of two weeks, our journalist received more than 20 responses - all from men.
One said: “Married man willing to pay for your bedsit, or whatever we find until you find work, in exchange for fun when I desire.”
“I can help you out with money for some fun I also may have a house if things work out between us xx”
But what about those who genuinely find themselves in situations like this?
ITV Wales’ Ein Byd contacted several people who had published an advert on Craigslist looking for somewhere to stay as part of an agreement with “alternative payments”. Only one replied:
“I’ve had a lot of response to the ad. One guy arranged to meet me then said I had to send an explicit picture of myself and if I didn’t, I couldn’t have the room. I’m now considering going to prison to get me out of this homeless situation. I don’t know what else to do.”
The AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, Dawn Bowden, has previously campaigned against adverts which exploit vulnerable people.
You’ve got to get to the point where we identify these people and they are prosecuted. And once you’ve got a few prosecutions, that will give people the confidence to come forward and report it. But it is extremely difficult for people that are in absolutely desperate circumstances - they need somewhere to live, they need a roof over their head - and for some people, this is the only way they can get it. >
As it is such a new phenomenon, there are no known prosecutions. But today, following the investigation, Dawn Bowden will raise this issue in the Senedd to ban such adverts from websites.
Who can you contact if you’ve been affected?