A regional journalist who was offered rent-free accommodation in exchange for sex after taking a new job used her experience to carry out an investigation into rogue landlords.
Bronte Howard received the seedy offers from landlords in Cardiff, where she has moved after starting a new reporting role with Wales Online.
The experience inspired Bronte, who worked for the Bath Chronicle prior to taking up her new post last month, to launch an investigation into the issue for her new employer.
Bronte, pictured, said she was “horrified” to discover the extent of the problem in the Cardiff area, with landlords openly offering free, or heavily discounted, rent in exchange for a sexual relationship with tenants.
While posting such advertisements online is not in itself illegal, any such arrangements which arise as a result of them are.
Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, ‘sex for rent’ arrangements are against the law because a crime is committed when a person causes or incites another to become a prostitute.
In a piece about her experience and subsequent investigation, Bronte told of the responses she had received after placing an advert on a house-hunting website, describing herself as a young professional in need of accommodation.
One respondent said he was “not looking for money, just companionship”, while another asked for a photograph, her age and details about her hobbies and interests.
She wrote: “They both implied that I would be able to live with these men for free, as long as we were able to come to an ‘agreement’. In other words – I would have to have sex with these men in order to live in their house.
“But this isn’t some far corner of the internet. It’s not a niche fetish site or disturbing internet-only community. This was an ad on a mainstream renting website, where men were asking to have sex with me in return for a room.
“They’re somewhere in the city I now live in – we could walk past each other at any time, or might already have done.”
Bronte ignored the men’s messages and took up her investigation.
“I started searching for ‘sex for rent’ adverts online and was both surprised and horrified at the volume of adverts and how brazen they are. Rogue landlords in Cardiff are offering free, or heavily discounted rent, in exchange for a sexual relationship,” she wrote.
“It’s not new, and has been happening behind closed doors for decades. But thanks to the internet and a housing crisis, it’s now much easier for landlords and tenants to set up the arrangement.”
Bronte found one ad aimed at “girls only” offering a room “available for an’‘arrangement'” with “no money needed”, while a 45-year-old man offered a “bed share” arrangement.
She added: “As a young woman moving to a new city, the fact that ‘landlords’ are able to freely (and legally) post these adverts online terrifies me and makes you realise how close to home this actually is.”