TWENTY-year-old Erin McAuley represents many young women who have struggled on zero-hours contracts and under poor working conditions while trying to forge their path in life. Her story in today’s paper about being targeted by a rogue landlord who tried to entice her into a “sex for rent” living arrangement brings grave concerns.

It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of women in the UK have been targeted by landlords offering accommodation in exchange for sex, while campaigners believe the figure in Scotland could be up to 2,000 each year.

Rogue landlords use online websites to target vulnerable women who are desperate to find a roof over their heads. Not only does the issue serve to highlight the problem of poorly regulated online platforms becoming havens for dangerous people, it also raises further concerns about the rise of modern-day slavery. As McAuley points out, the rogue landlord in her case was not only requesting sexual favours in exchange for cheap rent, he wanted domestic servitude, too.

We share her concerns about women in precarious situations who may feel they have no other option but to enter into these arrangements in order to avoid homelessness. The wider problems of housing shortages and zero-hours contracts – which mean workers are not guaranteed a set amount of hours or income – appear to be a contributory factor in the rise of “sex for rent” cases.

Now, McAuley is taking her concerns to Scottish Ministers via a motion at the Scottish Trades Union Congress youth conference next month. She hopes the Government will order an inquiry into “sex for rent” in Scotland to document the scale of it.

Understanding the factors forcing women into these damaging situations is becoming more urgent. Angela Constance, Scotland’s cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities, says the Government wrote to one advertisements website, Craigslist, earlier this year to raise concerns. She added that the landlord behaviour described in our report was “completely unacceptable”.

Strong words from the Government on this issue are welcome but, as McAuley says, the fight against this form of sexual exploitation and coercion would benefit from further Holyrood resources examining the gravity of the problem.