Vancouver’s rental market is so tight that landlords are asking for – and getting – sexual favours instead of rent, even though the practice is illegal, a CTV News hidden camera investigation has discovered.
Dozens of online ads offer the chance at free rent to female tenants willing to have sex with their landlord. One posting seeks a “a sexy slut,” while another references a “friend with benefits.”
When a CTV News employee tracked down some of these landlords by posing as someone interested in cheap rent, our cameras recorded an array of sexual propositions – and claims this wasn’t the first time these men had traded their rooms for sex.
“I’m outraged. I’m disgusted,” said Louisa Russell of Vancouver Rape Relief & Women's Shelter, who warned women against entering into such arrangements.
Vancouver is Canada’s most expensive rental market, with Padmapper estimating the median price for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,700 a month. Properties are very hard to find as well – the current rental rate is only 0.6 per cent, the lowest in the country.
It’s in that environment that rooms-for-sex ads are proliferating.
“If you clean and cook and don’t mind occasional fwb [friends with benefits] sex from time to time, rent can be very minimal,” one ad reads, warning “sometimes I will need some late night sex, so no fatties please.”
Another advertised “a free room in exchange for your time once or twice a week,” again with the acronym FWB.
The employee of CTV News, who called herself "April Lim," arranged a meeting with that advertiser near Metrotown. He picked the location, saying his mother would be shopping nearby while he discussed terms.
Rent would be free at his Burnaby basement suite, but he said to April he would have sex with her after he came home late for work. “We will spend the night together, yeah?” he said.
“Do you like to be on top?” he asked. “Do you like to be in charge?”
Later, on the phone, he is more specific, saying, “We can have rough sex in the living room, on the sofa.”
Another ad offers a “free room share for a nice, clean person.” When April meets the author in downtown Vancouver he says the room share is actually a “bed share” – and plenty of desperate renters are interested.
“You know what? A thousand e-mails. A thousand e-mails,” he says on camera, gesturing to his phone, as another email response comes in as the cameras roll.
The “bed share” he is offering is in his room in a one-bedroom condo on Burrard Street, and the tenancy will last only as long as April is willing to have sex.
“If you’re nice, OK. If you’re rude like them then I can say, ‘Sorry, please leave,’” he said.
Under Canada’s prostitution laws, selling sex is not illegal, but buying it is.
Neither of these men responded to our attempts to interview them, though one texted us to say he found a “benefit friend” for his condo, and the room was rented.
Russell of Vancouver Rape Relief said rent in Vancouver is so expensive that some women have little choice but to make alternate arrangements. The $375 rental supplement is laughably low in a city where median rents are more than $1,000 higher, she said.
“We receive calls from women phoning us complaining about predatory landlords too,” she said, adding she has met with Vancouver’s mayor in the hopes of finding new ways to ease the housing market, and that she wants police to crack down.
Const. Brian Montague of the Vancouver Police Department said the force is aware of the issue, but it’s not a priority for his investigators because the people involved are consenting adults.
However he said if they receive a complaint from anyone in that situation the officers would investigate with an eye to serious charges, including unlawful confinement and sexual assault.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wasn’t available Tuesday, and staff of B.C.’s housing minister said through a spokesperson he wouldn’t comment