VULNERABLE women are being coerced into sex with predatory landlords, it has been claimed.

Extortionate rents, exploitation and abuse are rife in the private rental market, according to Agnes Tolmie, chair of the Scottish Women’s Convention (SWC).

The scale of the problem was exposed yesterday at a special conference held by the SWC in Glasgow.

One speaker told how she had escaped a troubled home background only to be subjected to sexual demands from her landlord.

“These landlords have the power in their hands and vulnerable women are at their mercy,” said Tolmie.

“Women have a different experience from men when they are homeless and women with children are particularly vulnerable and at the mercy of being exploited and abused.

“We need to talk about the hidden homeless as this is as much of a problem as those who are living in the streets.”

Yesterday’s conference follows reports of sleazy advertisements in Scotland’s property listings offering rooms to women in exchange for “favours”.

The listings appeared in the Scottish property section of Californian company Craigslist, despite an industry-wide crackdown in the wake of previous investigations into similar adverts.

Other speakers yesterday told of shocking conditions in privately rented accommodation and high rents for places with little or no heating, no hot water and walls black with mildew.

“It is just horrible and when you have young children there is the health aspect as well,” said Tolmie. “Our winters are damp anyway and children living in these situations are going to end up with chest conditions. It’s not a pretty picture.”

She added: “The real issues are hidden and about the type of housing people are living in.

“We are hearing almost on a daily basis of people living in horrible conditions in places owned by private landlords. Local authorities and other organisations are putting money in to private rents to give homes to people who are on the edge of society but it would be more effective to build houses.

“They should not have to live in some shambolic place with their kids. They need the safety and shelter that a proper home provides.

“We need to do something about this and we should be asking how much we pay to these landlords because it seems to be all about money and greed. The bottom line is greed.”

Tolmie said the SWC had heard from a number of women regarding the “significant stress and trauma that many across Scotland experience as a result of housing issues”.

“Women’s inequality continues to persist and define us at both a societal and cultural level leading to unequal access to support and lack of awareness of gendered issues,” she said.

“We want to ensure that no voice goes unheard. We need to directly address these problems.”