Millions of people around the world have either been laid off or furloughed due to the pandemic as governments impose harsh lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease.
But unscrupulous landlords are attempting to exploit vulnerable tenants who find themselves mired in financial trouble and are unable to pay rent, according to reports.
US immigration attorney Kevin Block says some landlords are asking for “other arrangements” and even sending graphic sexual images when female tenants ask about rent.
“I am concerned because reported incidents indicate a greater number of unreported incidents,” Mr Block told CNN.
Khara Jabola-Carolus, Executive Director of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, says sexual harassment by landlords is making lives from women extremely difficult.
“There was no plan upfront to prepare for the physical and sexual violence from the combination of shelter-in-place, lost income and systemic sexism,” Ms Jabola-Carolus said.
In February it was reported that desperate tenants are sleeping with landlords instead of paying rent in a growing “sex for rent” epidemic.
A national survey Shelter Scotland recently found that 220,000 women nationally said they’d been asked for sex for their tenancies.
The Aberdeen Law Project, based at Aberdeen University, invited MSP Kevin Stewart, Detective Sergeant Craig Currie, Mark Thomson from homeless charity Shelter Scotland and Marsha Scott of Scottish Women’s Aid as part of the workshop.
Mr Thomson said there is a “vast amount of under-reporting” on the growing issue, where tenants are asked by landlords to offer sex in exchange for rent.
He added: “We are aware anecdotally that it does happen in Aberdeen.
Earlier this year a woman urged others to be safe after sharing her messages with a ‘landlord’ who offered to lower rent in exchange for nude photos.
Georgia Linehan took to social media to expose ‘how dangerous some people on the internet can be’ in a tweet which has since gained almost 35,000 likes.
Posting a screenshot of their worrying Whatsapp conversation, she wrote: “That’s the last time I try and buy a house on Gumtree.“
She is told it costs £695 per month, and she replies to say that she’ll have a think and let them know her decision in a couple of days.
Then a message comes back to say: “There is an option to reduce rent if you wanted to x.”
Asking how, she is told: “I own a modelling company, a few of my tenants work for me doing boob work basically. Breast pics for 2 pics the rent get reduced by £200.”
As the post received more than 2,800 likes, Georgia responded to the many comments from others suggesting the proposal was a ‘steal’, by saying: “Can I just say everyone saying ‘she’s mad for not taking this deal’ I highly doubt this man even owns a property.”