Rental ad for 'free' room slammed over 'exploitative' condition

The mother of two insists her offer for her Victorian home is 'fair enough'.

A mother living in Victoria said she's been harassed online after advertising a "free room" on Facebook Marketplace, with furious social media users accusing her of being a "scumbag" over a specific requirement for the prospective tenant.

The ad, promoting accommodation for a "single lady", states: "Someone can look after a baby three days a week. Rent and charge will be free, only food will need to be provided by yourself."

Following overwhelming backlash from the local community, the woman behind the post, Adéle, confirmed to Yahoo News Australia that in lieu of money for the bedroom in her Sunbury house, she would like help looking after her six-month-old baby.

Room for rent in Sunbury home
A woman has sparked controversy by offering a room in her Sunbury home in exchange for childcare. Source: Facebook

"It's kind of an au pair [situation]," the 29-year-old said. "We didn't ask for any money for the room, gas, electricity or water, but for help to look after our baby, three days a week. Around 9am to 4pm, maximum. We think it can help someone to find a place to stay and it also can help us. We think it's fair enough."

But instead of genuine enquiries, the mum of two, who's from France, says she's received a string of "not very nice" private messages from people calling her a "scumbag".

'This is how people end up dead'

Within hours of the ad being posted, Adéle was also condemned for using Facebook to look for a "complete and total random" to babysit her child. "Terrible post and not considering the safety of a child," one unimpressed user wrote. "This is how people end up dead," commented someone else, while another urged the mother to go through a "proper nanny agency".

While speaking to Yahoo, Adéle — who's only been living in Australia for a year with her husband, 12-year-old daughter and baby — explained that she didn't know about au pair agencies, but when asked if she would require a tenant to provide a police and working with children check, she replied "of course".

Facebook ad for room for rent; Text message exchange between landlord and Facebook user
The mother of two said she has been inundated with insulting private messages since posting her ad on Facebook. Source: Facebook/Supplied

What the law says

When it comes to hiring au pairs, the law is a little hazy. "Speaking generally," a spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman told Yahoo an au pair's status as an employee "will depend on the individual relationship".

The Fair Work website further explains that while some au pairs are "like live-in employees, working long hours as a child carer for the family, some au pairs aren't in an employment arrangement." This allows the parties involved to agree on payment terms.

But is it a fair deal?

Some people argued that "the hourly rate for a babysitter for three full days would equate to more than a single room in someone's house per week," while others slammed it as "exploitative" and "a rip off".

According to Talent International, the average hourly rate for childcare workers in Australia is $30.51, which means three seven-hour shifts, which are what's on offer here, would usually come to $640.71. Meanwhile, room prices in Sunbury range from $200 to $300 per week.

Still, many insisted that it's a "fair deal" and would be "perfect" for a student or au pair who could look after children in exchange for free boarding. "Nothing wrong with that offer, people need to stop complaining about everything," one proponent of the arrangement responded.

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