Live-in landlord said 'don't be afraid' before assaulting me

By Myles Bonnar
BBC Scotland

  • Published
Erika - Unlocked
Image caption,
Erika found a house-share listing where room and board were exchanged for 'cleaning' and 'gardening'

Erika says she froze moments before her landlord sexually assaulted her.

The 37-year-old had entered a home-share agreement, having discovered the man's extremely cheap offer through an accommodation search site.

The property was in an affluent area of a Scottish city and the owner had offered a room in exchange for four hours of cleaning and gardening per day.

But Erika says his motivations appeared to change after she moved in.

On one occasion she says he told her she looked "tense" and persistently offered her a massage, which she turned down.

According to her account it was around 10pm, she was in a strange area, knew no one and had little money to her name. She said she had nowhere else to go and did not know where the nearest police station was.

"He told me he's not a bad person, but [I thought] what if he goes crazy and kicks me out," she said.

'He knew my situation'

Erika says she took up the home-share under difficult circumstances - she was unable to fly home to Germany because of the coronavirus pandemic and needed a roof over her head.

She told BBC Scotland's Unlocked podcast she believed the landlord had "counted" on her lack of other options.

One night, she said the man - who was "big" in stature - repeatedly attempted to give her a massage before sexually assaulting her.

Getty Images
He knew the situation that I was in and that I needed a place to stay.

"He said 'you don't have to be afraid of anything'," said Erika. "I was just shocked. I was like 'what is going on, what can I do, where do I go'.

"If he asked me fifteen times, fifteen times I said 'no'.

"He knew the situation that I was in and that I needed a place to stay. And I knew that he was counting on my situation - it was like 'this person needs this so I can push'.

"I never ever want to sell myself.  I respect people that choose to do it but I'd rather be on the street than have sex for food or for house or anything."

Erika says she is now safe and living in temporary accommodation elsewhere.

"You cannot be convinced to have sex - that is not consent, that is coercion," she added. "I don't know how people can take advantage of someone who has nothing."

Days after the alleged incident, the advertisement was still live and an undercover reporter for the BBC made contact with the landlord to discuss terms.

He presented the same deal offered to Erika - a room in exchange for cleaning and gardening - and asked the reporter to come round as soon as possible so they could meet in person. 

A BBC reporter called the man again to inquire further about Erika's account, this time identifying themselves as a journalist.

The landlord said he would not comment on what Erika alleges happened at his property, but denied a sexual motive towards tenants and prospective tenants. 

In a follow up email, he said: "I am perfectly prepared to take an oath that I have never made any sexual advances to [Erika]."  

'Favours and arrangements'

Despite strict lockdown regulation, the BBC has discovered other live-in landlords who offer accommodation for little to no rent in exchange for so-called "favours" and "arrangements" - some explicitly state they will exchange accommodation for sex in their listings.  

Some of these ads, posted by male advertisers, state that these deals are available to "females only", even specifying age and ethnicity of their preferred tenant. 

One advertisement asks for the female tenant to be Korean and between 21-30 years of age.  Another asks for "open minded couples and singles". 

During our investigation, the BBC emailed some of the men behind these classified ads. 

When our undercover reporter called the men who offered their contact details, one landlord stated that she would need to have sex with him once or twice a week in exchange for a roof over her head. 

For a property in Perth, the reporter was informed that the live-in landlord was "willing to discuss payment in another way" if she couldn't afford to pay rent and that the "arrangement" he was looking for was "basically regular fun in bed together, in place of paying any rent or bills". 

In another email, for a property in Uddingston, our reporter was told that she could stay for "free for [a] couple of favours".  

The BBC has asked Craigslist about these ads but they never responded. 

You can hear more about Erika's story, classified rent agreements and staying safe during lockdown on new BBC Scotland podcast Unlocked.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article you can call Rape Crisis Scotland on 08088 01 03 02.