Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said she would like to see the practice of landlords offering free or reduced rent in exchange for sex being made a criminal offence.
Ms McEntee said she and the Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien are receiving advice from the Attorney General as to how the issue could be dealt with in legislation.
She said there is currently no law against landlords offering free or reduced rent in exchange for sex but that the matter was under consideration by the Government.
Ms McEntee was responding to Green Party TD Steven Matthews in the Dáil on Thursday, who said "sex for rent cases" had been raised recently in The Irish Examiner.
Mr Matthews, who is the chair of the Oireachtas Housing Committee, said it was "morally reprehensible" for someone to engage in this type of behaviour and that it needed "urgent action".
“I don’t know how prevalent this is but that it can exist at all is something that we need to address,” he said.
Ms McEntee said she was aware of the reports and that it was “very upsetting to even think about it and the fact that this is even happening”.
“Any type of behaviour by landlords seeking to use their position to prey on vulnerable people is completely unacceptable and can’t be tolerated,” she said.
“It’s an appalling abuse of power by people with really unscrupulous morals.”
She said it was difficult to know the prevalence of the issue in Ireland and that a UK survey last year found that 40,000 women found themselves in that position over a three-month period.
Ms McEntee said a similar survey through the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) had been considered but that it was “a very personal and difficult thing for somebody to respond to simply in a survey”.
“In the UK the law that does exist comes under a prostitution law so again I think we need to be very careful of the laws that we use here, the language that we use and how we refer to it so that’s the work we’re doing with the Attorney General at the moment, to see where this could fit into legislation here, she said.
“It’s not a criminal offence, I would like to see it as a criminal offence, it’ appalling behaviour, it’s the worst type of preying on victims and we need to make sure that we stamp it out.”