A respected property lawyer says she wants a change in the law to prevent unscrupulous landlords from offering accommodation in return for sex.
Liz Brady, a partner at law firm Furley Page, said: "There have been plenty of stories in the press recently exposing the scandalous behaviour of some landlords, who are exploiting desperate and often vulnerable people seeking accommodation.
“At the moment the only action that can be taken against such landlords is a charge under the Sexual Offences Act of inciting prostitution which carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years. This is not enforced as it is not directly applicable to the situation and relies on the victim tenant coming forward to complain.
“Many people, especially rough sleepers, the young or those trapped in abusive relationships, are unlikely to go to the police. The law clearly needs to be changed to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.”
She says landlords often justify their actions by arguing that as long as the tenant knows and accepts the arrangement there is nothing wrong with it.
"Agreeing to have sex with someone under the pressure and fear of homelessness, or in exchange for the basic right to have somewhere to live, does not equate to agreeing by choice. These shocking practices are on the rise in modern Britain which is shameful in a so-called 'civilised society'."
Brady suggests that websites like Craigslist are often used to advertise these 'tenancies', and says advertisements promoting what she describes as “morally indefensible practices” should be banned and the websites responsible should be required to remove such adverts as quickly as possible.
"It is high time the government acted to change the law to deal with this abhorrent problem. It should be an offence for landlords to act in this manner or advertise such exploitative arrangements, and websites and other media should be prevented from advertising the ‘tenancies’. At the moment there seems to be a prevailing complacency about the whole scandal of sex for rent" she says.