Laid Bare: How would you feel about renting to a sex worker?

Selling sex is technically legal, but how would you feel about it being sold in your property? 

In England, Wales and Scotland, selling sex is technically legal, with an estimated 72,800 sex workers in the UK, about 32,000 of which work in London. However, the associated practices are illegal:

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  • Soliciting in a public place
  • Kerb crawling
  • Owning or managing a brothel
  • Pimping and pandering

As a landlord, if your tenants were using your property to run a brothel, this would be illegal and you would have to tell the police if you found out about it, otherwise you could be prosecuted for benefiting from illegal activity. 

But the rise of the internet has seen a lot of sex work move online. OnlyFans, one of the few sites that allows the sale of explicit material, has over 85 million users, over 1 million of whom are ‘creators’.

Based on monthly subscriptions allowing fans to access the content, many OnlyFans creators claim to earn up to £6,000 a month. But while these are the stories that hit the headlines, it’s likely that the average creator is earning much less.

Is sex work a viable source of income?

It certainly can be for some. Particularly during the pandemic, many people who had been furloughed or had lost their job turned to OnlyFans to boost their income, as something they could easily do from home. 

Would you rent to a sex worker

Towards the end of 2021, many of the top earners in the UK are celebrities with an already established following, like ex-Love Islanders or models. So it’s not as easy as you would think to build a loyal following that will result in a reliable income. But, if this following is built, then the income can be larger than a lot of monthly incomes in the UK, with some earners pulling in seven figure sums each year – more than the average wage of a British doctor.

As a landlord, as long as your tenant is not committing a crime and can afford your rent each month, without falling into arrears, would you care what their job is? 

Well, many landlords would say yes, they do care, as 65% of landlords we surveyed said they require tenants to disclose their profession before they will rent to them.

Can you rent to a sex-worker?

Technically, there is no reason that you would know they are a sex worker, unless they chose to disclose that information to you. It may only show as ‘self-employed’ on tenant referencing. And, as long as they are not running a brothel out of your property, or committing any of the above crimes, they are technically not doing anything illegal. 

If, however, you rented to someone knowing they’d be using the space to run a brothel, you would be at fault, for knowingly profiting from the proceeds of crime.

What do landlords think of sex workers as potential tenants?

While 58% of the landlord we surveyed said they have allowed tenants to work from home or run a small business from their property, only 21% of those surveyed had knowingly rented to a sex worker. 

Of the landlords surveyed, if they suspected a tenant was using the property for sex work: 

  • 31% would serve notice on their tenancy agreement
  • 26.67% said they would report to the police if they found out
  • 22.67% would ask them to stop

Despite the possible huge income that could be generated through platforms like OnlyFans, 37% of landlords said they would have a problem with tenants using their rental property to produce explicit content to publish online.

While 49% of landlords said they would have a problem with their property being used as a base for sex work, a surprisingly high 25% wouldn’t mind at all. 

36.33% of landlords would be put off renting to a tenant who had a sex worker past, but 30.67% wouldn’t mind.

Can you discriminate against someone for being a sex worker?

This is a trickier question to answer. At the moment, according to the Human Rights Act, you cannot discriminate against anyone on the basis of:

  • Sex
  • Race
  • Colour
  • Language
  • Religion
  • Political or other opinion
  • National or social origin
  • Association with a national minority
  • Property 
  • Birth 
  • Other status, including sexual orientation, illegitimacy, marital status, trade union membership, transsexual status or imprisonment
  • ‘Other’  can also be used to challenge discrimination on the basis of age or disability

As you can see there is nothing on there that explicitly states ‘career’ or ‘work’ as something you can discriminate against. However, there is a lot of work going into protecting sex workers and sex work, and while a lot of this protection is around ensuring their physical safety, there is a call for more legal protection and a change in social attitudes towards this profession, so sex work could be considered to fall under the ‘other status’.

So, if you were to ask a tenant to leave because you found out they were a sex worker, even if they’d been a model tenant up to that point, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a precedent setting court case.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this? Have you ever rented to a sex-worker? Would you consider it? 

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