Seedy landlords are increasingly offering free or discounted rent in exchange for sex via classified advertisements in Perth as the city's rental crisis continues to spiral out of control.
It's understood the exploitative practice is taking place in most major cities across Australia, with unsavoury landlords offering rent-for-sex arrangements in personal classifieds.
A number of classifieds can be found advertising 'free rent for services' on community websites such as Locanto, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace, the West Australian reports.
Offers for the sordid exchange are reportedly reaching record levels in Perth as the city's rent crisis continues to worsen.
Residents in the Western Australian capital are battling one of the most competitive rental markets the city has experienced in decades, with rental availability at its lowest point in 40 years.
People are becoming entrenched in the city's social housing system, perpetuating cycles of poverty as some tenants cannot earn more than AU$28,000 per year in order to be eligible for a unit, ABC reports.
The vacancy rate in the Perth metropolitan area improved slightly earlier this year, but remains just above record lows - at 1 percent in April - according to the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia (REIWA).
Since an emergency moratorium on rent increases - implemented amid the pandemic by state Premier Mark McGowan - ended in March, rental prices have spiked significantly.
"The lifting of the moratorium on rents and evictions has left a new swath of the WA community exposed to housing stress," Michelle Mackenzie, the chief executive of Shelter WA, told ABC in May.
"Rents have increased 20 percent since this time last year [and] an additional [AU]$70 per week is unfeasible for families doing it tough. This is forcing many families into enormous debt."
The crisis has contributed to a 66 percent rise in homelessness in the Perth CBD and the city of Fremantle, with rental properties in the Perth area routinely attracting 50 or more inquiries - driving up the prices.
With tenants becoming increasingly desperate, many are prepared to undertake work - such as childcare, cleaning, or maintenance - in exchange for a discounted rent or free accommodation. However, this has also contributed to the rise in rent-for-sex arrangements.
"Hi was wondering if any women were looking for a room to rent?... I can charge rent ([AU$]130 a week) or exchange for some sexual services. We can work something out," said one recent online ad for a room in Kwinana.
One man advertising a room in exchange for "favours" told an undercover reporter from the West Australian that the ad had attracted 10 inquiries and 1300 views.
In another classified ad, a 52-year-old man advertised for "a single lady [aged] from 25 to 45 years".
The ad said the offer was "for roughly six months" with a review after three months. The arrangement would include free rent and free utilities "in exchange for services".
"You must be extremely open minded and not be offended easily."
One ad listed by a 45-year-old man in Beckenham, south-east Perth, offered discounted rent for a "young guy under 20" in return for oral sex, while another posted by a man aged 30 offered a free room in a luxury apartment to a woman who was willing to share his bed.
Another ad posted by a 27-year-old man said he was offering free rent in exchange for "sex one or two times per week".
"Must be good-looking and around 19 to 30 years old. Hit me up."
Offering free or discounted rent in exchange for sexual services or favours is not against the law in Australia. However, pressuring someone into prostitution is illegal - and ambiguous arrangements with tenants who speak English as a second language can fall into this category, according to local media.