Tuesday 22 October 2019

Landlords ask for sex instead of rent from vulnerable tenants, committee hears

Tenants are being propositioned by landlords for sex in lieu of rent, a housing committee was told

Ruth Coppinger said sex for rent is becoming a reality for many tenants (Niall Carson/PA)
Ruth Coppinger said sex for rent is becoming a reality for many tenants (Niall Carson/PA)

By Aine McMahon, PA

People in receipt of Housing Assistance Payment are being propositioned by landlords for sex instead of rent, the Housing Committee heard.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Ruth Coppinger told the Dail on Wednesday that a young woman living in Rathmines was propositioned by her landlord who told her she could stay without paying rent “if we agree something”.

“So insane has the housing crisis become… and so much power you’ve left in the hands of landlords, that sex for rent is becoming a reality for many tenants,” said Ms Coppinger.

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the alleged texts between the landlord and the young woman “sounds disgusting and a horrible thing for someone to have to go through”.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said a number of people in receipt of Housing Assistance Payment had contacted Ms Coppinger’s office to say some landlords are raising the idea of sexual favours when they go to view houses.

“Deputy Coppinger’s offices have been contacted by quite a lot of people in the past hour.

“It seems to be the case that some landlords interviewing people for HAP tenancies are raising the idea of sexual favours from the tenant,” said Mr Barry.

“I met this woman with Deputy Coppinger recently. She was a working woman.

“The idea of having a place of her own was a real difficulty because of the high cost of rent. She had been sharing accommodation with a friend.

“The friend decided to leave the accommodation and the woman in question was facing the threat of homelessness. The landlord found himself in a position of power with this young woman,” he said.

Mr Barry said the landlord sent the alleged texts a few days before she had to leave the house.

“There were three offers made to this woman by the man she estimates to be in his mid 60s.

“One of them was ‘solve your problem by coming to live with me’. One offer was ‘come to dinner with me and see what happens’, which would be half rent on the property.

“The other one was that maybe if things went the right way, there could be free.. no charge for the rent,” he said.

Mr Barry pointed to the UK, where there are 250,000 estimated cases of sex for rent, and said there could potentially be numerous cases in Ireland, and encouraged people to speak out about it.

“This could be a Me Too moment for the housing crisis,” he added.

In response, Mr Murphy said policy responses need to be provided to deal with similar cases.

“A number of people are vulnerable because of the housing crisis. We have a housing shortage.

“People find themselves in incredibly difficult circumstances – be it emergency accommodation or they are being housed or homed in sub-standard accommodation,” said Mr Murphy.

He said his department has brought forward emergency support for people who find themselves vulnerable in times of crisis.

“HAP is working successfully for tens of thousands of people. If HAP was not in place more people would be vulnerable due to the housing shortage,” he said.

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