A major London landlord is offering women-only viewings amid an increasing number of ‘sex-for-rent’ cases. Up to 250,000 women have been offered free or low rent in exchange for sex in the past five years, figures show.
Build-to-rent developer UNCLE will be offering women the chance to look around flats with female agents. The plan aims to protect potential tenants from increasing instances of being “inappropriately approached” by landlords seeking sexual favors.
The move comes as a report by housing charity Shelter revealed that some 250,000 women had been offered free or discounted rent since 2013 on condition that they consented to some form of physical encounter with their landlord. Ryan Prince, founder and chief executive of UNCLE, said he was shocked at the extent to which the practice by “people in a position of power and influence” has spread.
“I couldn’t believe how many women had been inappropriately approached in some shape or form,” he added, according to the Evening Standard. The property developer has two apartment blocks in New Cross and Stockwell, and is completing a 45-story tower in Elephant & Castle. At least half of its 1,000 tenants are women, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s.
“We have resident women managers, so if a woman is uncomfortable with doing a show-around with a man, they can ask for a woman,” Prince added. “If they have had a bad experience in the past, they will never have one with us.”
Kassy Essiet, resident manager at UNCLE Elephant & Castle, said: “The kind of behavior highlighted by Shelter’s report is outrageous and is the opposite of how we do things at UNCLE. Renters in the UK are treated like second-class citizens and this report suggests women receive the worst of it.”
The practice can constitute a breach of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which provides for a maximum sentence of seven years. Despite its illegality, there have been no prosecutions to date over ‘sex-for-rent’ cases.
BBC journalist Ellie Flynn recently went undercover to expose the scale to which women tenants in the UK are being targeted by malicious landlords. Offers on a popular classified adverts website included “a room for a discreet bi/gay man” who “must be ok with receiving anal,” while another advertised a “free room in return for cooking, cleaning and oral once or twice a week.”
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