PROPERTY owners who demand sex in exchange for rent have faced no criminal action, an MP says.

Hove and Portslade MP Peter Kyle said thousands of prospective tenants, renters and lodgers have been put at risk.

He criticised websites allowing coded adverts and said those running the United States listing site Craigslist are “acting like pimps”.

According to surveys by housing charity Shelter and ComRes, as many as 30,000 women were propositioned by predators since March last year, he said.

A recent investigation by the Daily Mail found perverts still preying on mainly younger women and openly advertising sex for rent on internet sites.

The Mail’s investigation found there were properties and rooms listed on websites, including in Brighton and Hove.

But while it is illegal under the Sexual Offences Act for a property owner to demand sexual favours in return for rent or accommodation, Peter Kyle said no one has been arrested or convicted for it.

He said many now skirt the rules by instead advertising less blatantly, with property listings stating messages such as: “Are you having trouble paying the rent due to Covid-19?... I have a solution for you.”

Currently the law defines incitement to prostitution as a criminal offence, but now Mr Kyle wants a new law to stop people demanding sex for rent.

He said: “Sexual predators, people who seek to exploit others for gratification and control, are very good at finding people’s vulnerabilities and ruthlessly targeting them. That’s why the ‘sex for rent’ phenomena has emerged as an issue.

“In parts of the country like ours where there is shortage of housing and it’s very expensive, there’s an opportunity for exploitation.”

He singled out Craiglist in particular for criticism. “They are profiting from the sexual exploitation of young people,” he said. “Journalists have tried contacting them, government officials have tried, and I have numerous times but they don’t bother responding.

“Put simply, they’re acting like pimps so why aren’t we treating them as such?

“They make millions out of a squalid transaction which if it were in a street or neighbourhood will trigger immediate police action, but because it’s online… nothing. Yet the abuse, coercion and exploitation is very, very real.

“This is a big problem and I hate what it says about the challenges many find in society right now.”