This Morning Star article describes attempts by Labour politicians to make it easier to prosecute 'sex-for-rent' arrangements, where landlords "demand sex from tenants in lieu of rent".

The article includes the following paragraph:

Under current legislation, victims must be legally defined as prostitutes, which is thought to be a deterrent to victims coming forward since they may fear that it will adversely affect their future.

Under what law must victims be legally defined as prostitutes in order for a prosecution to take place?

  • 4
    It doesn't look like they would have to be defined as prostitutes, just that they would have to admit to an act of prostitution, which isn't the same thing, "Cook one meal doesn't make u a chef"-type jokes notwithstanding. Jan 6, 2021 at 15:38

3 Answers 3


Why must victims be legally defined as prostitutes in order for a prosecution to take place?

The arrangement is currently illegal* because it constitutes causing or inciting prostitution for gain or controlling prostitution for gain, contrary to section 52 or 53 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, so the victim would then be a prostitute.

*At least in the view of the Crown Prosecution Service. As there has not been a prosecution brought in court, this interpretation on the applicability of s. 52/53 remains uncertain.


I would imagine this is because there is not a law specifically criminalizing the practice of offering a "sex-for-rent" arrangement in itself; rather, this is/has been normally handled under existing anti-prostitution law (hence the "legally defining as prostitutes").

Prostitution is the exchange of sex for "something of value", which can be, but does not necessarily need to be money, so arguably this designation is accurate, with "something of value" being waived rent obligations.

Presumably, the Labor politicians are proposing such a law, specifically criminalizing the making of such an offer.


Sex for rent arrangements are illegal solely because prostitution is illegal, and because economic duress is not a defense to most criminal offenses or civil legal obligations. Otherwise it would be a valid barter transaction. Indeed, in lots of places, it is a valid barter transaction which isn't illegal.

Also, from a civil law perspective, the arrangement would be unenforceable and invalid because it is premised upon demanding illegal consideration.

  • 2
    In the UK prostitution itself is legal but there are various offences associated with it. This arrangement is (probably) illegal because pimping is illegal.
    – richardb
    Sep 28, 2021 at 9:20
  • 1
    @richardb Fair point. The more general issue is that any contract with illegal consideration is illegal. For example, cocaine for rent is also illegal.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 30, 2021 at 20:05

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