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There have been a number of articles about people who have been exchanging sex for rent or accommodation.

Assuming that at some interval a person provides sexual services to another and in for this they are given some where to live (could be with them or at another location) could this be considered a form of prostitution? Or does money have to be exchanged to be considered prostitution.

What test apply?

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'Prostitution' is neither wholly legal nor wholly illegal in Australia. Some prostitution is legal and other prostitution is not. The rules differ from State to State.

In Victoria the relevant law is the Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic). The term 'sex work' is defined in section 3 of the Act. Note that, even then, not all sex work is necessarily legal or illegal.

In Victoria, it is generally lawful for a person to take money (or money's worth) for sex, as long as it's not as part of a business such as an 'escort agency' or 'brothel' (each term is defined in the Act). However, it is an offence to:

  • induce a child to perform sex work: s 5;
  • induce a person to perform sex work using violence, intimidation, drugs or fraud: s 8;
  • live off the earnings of another person's sex work: s 10;
  • loiter near a school or church looking to procure or offer sex work: ss 12 & 13 respectively;
  • operate, attend, etc an unlicenced brothel: s 15;
  • advertise for people to become sex workers: s 17;
  • provide or receive sex work services without a condom etc: s 18A;
  • carry on the business of sex work (including an escort agency or brothel) without a licence: s 22 (but certain owner-operators are exempt: s 23);
  • many other things.

In conclusion, a person paying rent in the form of sex is likely to be legal, but they would have to use a condom, take steps to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. Advertising 'come live here in exchange for sex' would, however, be illegal.

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    "In Victoria, it is generally lawful for a person to take money (or money's worth) for sex, as long as it's not as part of a business such as an 'escort agency' or 'brothel'" Huh. IIRC the opposite is true up here in Queensland: prostitution is illegal except for legally licenced brothels!
    – nick012000
    Commented Nov 12, 2022 at 3:04
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It would be prostitution, however, prostitution is not illegal in Australia.

Barter is a legal way to settle debts in Australia so long as all taxes are paid, for example, the tenant must pay income tax on the value of the sex provided and the landlord must pay tax on the residential rent value. Of course this hardly ever happens, so in that sense, it breaches tax law.

There are work health and safety and residential rental tenancy laws that must be observed.

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    makes you wonder if marriage itself is prostitution. In exchange for consummating the marriage, the other party provides for them.
    – mark b
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 19:56
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    @markb sounds nothing like my marriage
    – Dale M
    Commented May 3, 2017 at 21:02
  • What factors are involved when calculating the value of the sex provided? Is there a worksheet I can use?
    – user3580
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 4:47
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    The Australian Tax Office would assess it at "market rate" - this would depend on your location and the services provided. Any bona fide reasonable valuation would probably be accepted- they can make comparisons with the tax return data of sex workers
    – Dale M
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 6:25
  • If it is sex for rent, wouldn’t the value be the amount of rent saved?
    – gnasher729
    Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 15:43
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Prostitution that is limited to the exchange of sexual services for money is legal (unless it involves such things as soliciting and/or persistent loitering).

Requiring tenants to have Sex for Rent, however, is unlawful. The leading (and possibly the only) example is the conviction of Christopher Cox in May 2022. As the Crown Court rarely publishes its sentencing remarks, and as this case did not go to Appeal, there is no freely available open-source caselaw for me to cite. All that's available is from media reports, such as this one that states Cox...

...was jailed for 12 months. He had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of inciting prostitution for gain and one charge of controlling prostitution for gain when he appeared at an earlier hearing in March.

...

...Cox has brazenly advertised on a classified ads website offering a room in return for sexual services

If followed through, these sexual favours would make the prospective tenant a prostitute according to section 54(2) Sexual Offences Act 2003:

..."prostitute” means a person (A) who, on at least one occasion and whether or not compelled to do so, offers or provides sexual services to another person in return for payment or a promise of payment to A...

So, by placing the adverts and demanding sex in the way he did, Cox was convicted of:

  • Inciting prostitution for gain is an offence under section 52:

(1) A person commits an offence if—

  • (a) he intentionally causes or incites another person to become a prostitute in any part of the world, and

  • (b) he does so for or in the expectation of gain for himself or a third person.

...

  • Controlling prostitution for gain is an offence under section 53:

(1) A person commits an offence if—

  • (a) he intentionally controls any of the activities of another person relating to that person’s prostitution in any part of the world, and

  • (b) he does so for or in the expectation of gain for himself or a third person.

...

  • "Gain", for completeness, is defined by section 54(1) to include:
  • (a) any financial advantage, including the discharge of an obligation to pay or the provision of goods or services (including sexual services) gratuitously or at a discount...

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