Renters sexually exploited in broken market
JUSTIN was a "naive and invincible" 20-year-old when he first moved to Sydney and started looking for a home in the inner-city hotspot of Surry Hills.
So when he saw a well-written advertisement with 15 pictures for a $200-a-week room through a private property manager, it didn't ring any alarm bells. Even when the landlord wanted an inspection at 9.30pm followed by a drink.
"Having to balance work and study myself I thought maybe this person has a really stressful job or maybe he's a property manager on the side," the now 25-year-old told news.com.au.
"I thought, 'OK maybe he wants to take me out for a drink to get to know me. Maybe this is some kind of test in a club environment to see how I can handle my alcohol."
"While I was at the bar he pulled out his phone and showed me all these pictures of other guys my age who he claimed to have slept with in exchange for free accommodation for that room.
"I completely froze and didn't know what to do …. I was thinking of how I could get out of the situation without trying to aggravate him."
Justin said the man proclaimed himself the "Robin Hood" of Sydney's happening Oxford St as he laughed nervously and talked of a fictitious "boyfriend". All while trying to avoid the drink he had been given in case it was spiked.
"I wasn't sure how to react. So I just went, 'No, no, no, no, it's OK - I'm still happy to pay for it if you like.' He said, 'No sex, no room, you should be grateful' … His mood instantly switched ... [saying] 'It's my way or no way, no sex - no room.'
"I thanked him for the offer but said 'I'll have to decline' and I walked off. I kind of ran off."
It's one of a number of stories told to news.com.au about landlords offering reduced or free rent in Australia in exchange for sexual favours. It follows reports thousands of men and women across the UK have been offered a similar deal in the last five years, according to a poll carried out by YouGov and housing charity Shelter.
The survey of 4000 tenants in 2017 found four per cent of men and three per cent of women had been offered, or knew someone who had been offered, such a deal in the last five years. Meanwhile a series of rogue landlords have been caught on hidden camera asking for sex in return for free or reduced rent, while others have claimed they were evicted for refusing their landlord's advances.
A search of Australian real estate listings reveals the issue is widespread, with sites including Locanto and Craigslist hosting advertisements offering "free rent for the right girl" or a room for $10 a week for an "open-minded" female tenant.
"Hi there, have a room share available for FREE with 28yo hardworking attractive gentleman for OPEN-MINDED, clean and fun girl in a very luxurious penthouse in a million dollar area," one ad on Craigslist reads, asking for photos of any prospective flatmates.
A similar advertisement offers $10 a week rent for a room in a two-bedroom apartment, saying: "I will sublet 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom for an open-minded girl for free. Send photos in your reply."
Tenants New South Wales considers unwanted sexual advances against a prospective resident as something that could fall foul of discrimination laws.
The organisation advises it's unlawful for a landlord to discriminate by "sexually harassing you in the course of being provided or offered accommodation" or "by ending the tenancy because of your race, sex, gender identity, sexuality, disability, marital status, or age." Landlords are also banned from imposing discriminatory terms and conditions on a lease, such as limiting the number of people a tenant can invite to visit the home.