Landlords seeking sex for rent has ‘become normalised’

Rape Crisis Network Ireland executive director Dr Clíona Saidléar calls for new law to ban the practice

Landlords seeking sex for rent has “become normalised” in certain sections of society due to the “perfect storm” that has been created by the housing shortage, according to Rape Crisis Network Ireland.

Ireland’s homeless figures are currently at all time high with those housed in emergency accommodation exceeding 12,000 people.

A report from RTÉ Investigates on Thursday revealed how some landlords are seeking sex from often vulnerable prospective tenants in exchange for reduced rent or free accommodation.

A researcher went undercover to meet landlords who had posted ads online looking for sex in exchange for accommodation.


The researcher created a backstory that she was a Brazilian student who had arrived in Ireland eight months ago, who had just lost her job as an au pair, and was sleeping on her friend’s couch in a crowded house in Dublin.

The programme featured dialogue with a number of landlords who sought to negotiate sex in exchange for free accommodation.

There is currently no specific law to ban landlords from seeking sex for rent. A bill to address the issue collapsed at Oireachtas committee stage last year due to difficulties around its wording and some of the penalties.

The bill, drafted by Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan, sought to create two new offences criminalising both the person stipulating sex as a condition of accommodation, and online platforms that facilitate or host such advertisements.

Mr O’Callaghan said he had been prompted to introduce the bill amid reports about vulnerable women – including, most recently, Ukrainian refugees – being exploited in this manner.

Dr Clíona Saidléar, executive director of the Rape Crisis Network Ireland, said there is “widespread agreement that something must be done” about the matter.

“What you have right now is something of a perfect storm in terms of the vulnerability that has opened up around housing and around finding somewhere to rent and accommodation,” she said.

“There is a certain cohort of society where this has become a normalised or somewhat tolerated aspect of looking for a house and that’s utterly unacceptable.”

Kieran McGrath, a psychiatric social worker, said: “We need explicit legislation. A law governing it would send a very clear message, because people who convince themselves this is okay and it’s not illegal, that gives them a green light as far as they’re concerned.”

Mr McGrath added that there are issues in relation to consent in circumstances where homelessness may be a tenant’s only other choice. “There’s no equality at all,” he said.

“This is basically sexual exploitation where you give sex in return for some economic benefit, whether it might be rent, it could be drugs, it could be alcohol.

“That’s a well-established definition of sexual exploitation which is a form of sexual abuse. It’s that simple.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter