New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective (NZPC) national coordinator Catherine Healy said sex in exchange for accommodation could be considered prostitution, but that it was not a new phenomenon.It came down to whether the person providing the sexual services felt they were engaging commercial sexual activities, Healy said.This arrangement worked out well for some students, but not for everyone, he said.

Trade Me did not have a specific policy in relation to accommodation in exchange for services, including sex, but when listings overstepped the mark they were removed by a policing team that monitored the site 24/7.

The public was good at alerting Trade Me to any listings that crossed the line or were in breach of the sites terms and conditions, he said."We'd also encourage anyone renting accommodation to familiarise themselves with their rights under the Residential Tenancies Act, in particular when it comes to lodging bond and arranging rent."ALSO HAPPENING IN OZThe same thing is happening across the ditch as Sydney house prices creep towards a median of AU$1 million (NZ$1.07 million). "The advertisement continued, "My place is clean, close to transport and CBD ...

Increases in student allowances and living costs introduced in April were not enough to cover student rents, which put students in financially vulnerable situations.

Some financially vulnerable students were forced to buy less food and sacrifice their health in order to pay rising rent costs, he said.

And with rents in New Zealand up $25 a week over the year to April advertisements offering "free rent for services" are springing up across mainstream house-sharing sites.

An ad posted on Craigslist in Auckland offers a free bedroom in the suburb of Glen Eden in exchange for "sexual favours."An advertisement for a room in Auckland in exchange for sexual favours that was posted on Craigslist.

"CAN BE MISINTERPRETED In several Australian ads, subtext can be lost on the vulnerable, particularly those with limited English.*Tom has "a free room available in kings cross area for the right Guest... Two days after placing an advertisement on Gumtree for "cheap or free rent in exchange for cleaning and cooking", a young couple asked Ms Ye to share her body instead."It was so creepy and kind of scary because it was in person, and there have been lots of emails from older single men, which I find weird."I am scared sometimes I will agree to something I don't fully understand in English," she said.

Professor Bill Randolph, of the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, says the phenomenon is driven by housing cost, combined with a culture of anonymity."Years ago, you couldn't have this kind of access to people and be hidden."Now, this is the opportunity for people to exploit the vulnerable, who desperately need housing they can afford," Professor Randolph said.

It was a brazen offence, committed in a public place over a prolonged period and in the presence of staff.” Mr Davis said that while there was no “identifiable victim” in the case and the couple were clearly under the influence of alcohol, the potential for harm was “significant”.