The government is being urged to bring in a dedicated ‘sex for rent’ law to protect tenants after it promised to clamp down on predatory adverts.
The recently passed Online Safety Bill will target the adverts and hold online platforms such as Gumtree and Craigslist responsible for preventing them from being posted.
Illegal content, including the adverts, will have to be removed, while the platforms must enforce promises they make to users who sign up through terms and conditions and offer them the option to filter out harmful content.
If the platforms don’t comply with these rules, Ofcom could fine them up to £18 million or 10% of their global annual revenue, whichever is biggest.
However, despite the prevalence of the practice, only one person has ever been convicted in a sex for rent case because victims must legally be defined as ‘prostitutes’, which acts as a deterrent.
The UK government launched a public consultation in April, which aimed to understand the problem.
Campaigners are still waiting for its response, but Generation Rent believes a clear and dedicated law is needed to target predators and protect vulnerable renters.
Trade association Propertymark has previously called for landlords to be banned from the PRS for life and dealt with under the Sexual Offences Act, through criminal proceedings.
Tilly Smith (pictured), Generation Rent’s campaigns and partnership officer, says the inclusion of these harmful adverts in the Online Safety Bill is a positive move but that these changes alone will not end the overriding issues that force vulnerable people into sex for rent arrangements.
“The government must act to ensure that benefit payments are enough to cover the rent, that people can access and remain in safe and secure homes, and that that renters are supported through the cost-of-living crisis,” says Smith.