Sex-for-rent schemes targeting tenants struggling financially during coronavirus shutdown

Landlords send explicit pictures instead of invoices

Justin Vallejo
New York
Saturday 18 April 2020 14:58 BST
Dr Phil claims shutdowns worse than coronavirus

Landlords are targeting tenants left broke by the nationwide coronavirus lockdown with offers of sex in exchange for rent, according to a Buzzfeed News investigation.

On one occasion, a woman who texted a prospective landlord about a more affordable property received an explicit photograph in response.

Another woman who asked her landlord if she could defer April rent until the economy restarted was told she could come over and spoon him instead.

They are among a growing number of sexual harassment complaints since the lockdown and shelter-in-place orders across the country left almost 17 million workers unemployed.

Cases of sexual exploitation and abuse against women have skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women.

“We’ve received more cases at our office in the last two days than we have in the last two years,” Khara Jabola-Carolus, the executive director of the commission, told BuzzFeed News.

“The conditions are ripe for sexual exploitation,” she added.

Sheryl Ring, the legal director at Open Communities legal aid and fair housing agency, told Buzzfeed News they have see a threefold increase in sexual harassment complaints related to housing in the last month.

“Since this started, they [landlords] have been taking advantage of the financial hardships many of their tenants have in order to coerce their tenants into a sex-for-rent agreement - which is absolutely illegal,” said Ms Ring.

“We’ve heard some landlords are attempting to use the situation where a tenant falls behind to pressure a tenant into exchanging sex for rent.”

The White House has set up a task force that will focus on rolling back the social distancing measures that expire at the end of April and reopening the economy in May.

Donald Trump has said if it were up to the doctors, they may say to keep the world shut down to protect people from Covid-19 infection, but that could make the cure worse than the disease.

“You can’t do that with a country ― especially the No. 1 economy anywhere in the world, by far ... you can’t do that. It causes bigger problems than the original,” Donald Trump told reporters during his daily press conference.

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