Skip to navigationSkip to content

If you can’t afford your rent, some landlords will accept your used underwear instead

A lingerie shop with hanging underwear.
Reuters/Eric Gaillard
The latest chapter in London’s housing saga involves underwear.
By Marta Cooper, Aamna Mohdin
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

London’s mix of blistering property prices and building restrictions has created a dire shortage of housing in the capital. It’s so bad, even a mattress under a set of stairs is not one of the most egregious examples of the city’s insane rental market. 

But there’s also another, darker side effect of the searing cost of putting a roof over your head: landlords offering free or minimal rent in exchange for sexual favors.

City blog Londonist has outlined the scale of the problem. Ads on classifieds site Craglist show offers ranging from rent of £1 ($1.24) a day in return for “an open minded young girl who would like to explore kink and submission,” to a free room for a girl who would give the other tenants her worn underwear. 

One of the offers.

Such ads do not appear to violate Craigslist’s terms of prohibited content, but we have reached out to the company for comment.

Housing and homelessness charity Shelter sees this as an exploitation of the city’s housing crisis. In an earlier blogpost, the charity writes

While it is a story of men trying to exploit women, the thing that makes that exploitation possible is unaffordable housing and lack of appropriate support services and move on accommodation for those who do find themselves homeless…
High housing costs don’t make these particular exploitative relationships inevitable–and there is much to be done to try to prevent them and keep people safe.”

Rents continued to increase across the UK, where the average rent rose by 2.4% in England, 0.1% in Wales and remained unchanged in Scotland in the 12 months to August 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Rent hikes were particularly pronounced in London, where rent increased by 2.6% in the 12 months to August 2016.

It’s not just London: Rents have increased sharply across the world. In the US, metropolitan areas on the west coast are predicted to see the biggest rent increases over the next year. Tenants in Seattle and Portland could see their rent increase by 7.2% and 6%, respectively, over the near year, according to recent data by Zillow. That is more than three times the nationwide forecast of 1.7%.

Unsurprisingly, similar postings have cropped up in other cities plagued by sky-high rents and low availability, from a “tall handsome mature guy” looking for a so-called ”daddies girl” in Seattle, to men offering free rent in exchange for sex in Vancouver (a city that is experiencing a real estate bubble of its own).

An ad posted on the Seattle Craigslist site.

Zillow expects rent to increase in 34 of the 35 largest US metros, though 11 of the 35 are expected to report slower growth. Job opportunities and high salaries have attracted millennials to tech hubs such as Seattle and San Francisco, according to Zillow, but this increased demand hasn’t been met with increased supply. As a result, costs increase as a larger number of people looking to rent a limited number of homes.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.