Tenants living in a Watford estate claim their rights will be taken away if membership rule changes planned by a housing association are approved next week.

Currently all new Watford Community Housing Trust tenants are invited to become members of the organisation, meaning they can attend general meetings and vote on big decisions.

However if the new rules are approved at the trust’s annual general meeting on Monday, all members will be contacted to ask if they want to remain a member. If they do not reply within 28 days they will cease being a member.

The same will happen if they fail to attend, in person or by proxy, two consecutive general meetings.

Former legal secretary Karen Bell, who has lived in the Abbey View tower block on the Meriden since 2014, says the planned changes would stifle engagement and hand more decision-making power to the trust.

“Their goal is to become an organisation which is self-governing by removing members’ voices. They’re trying to stop members having the final say - they want to take people’s rights away,” she said.

“If they want people to be engaged, they have got to make it possible for them to get engaged. They’re making it even tougher for people to become a member.”

The housing trust insists the rules are designed to prioritise “quality over quantity” in its membership, arguing that low levels of turnout at recent general meetings signify a lack of interest from the majority of tenants.

However Karen argues that a lack of public transport on the estate in the evenings makes it difficult for members to attend meetings at the trust’s headquarters in Clarendon Road.

She added: “We are not denigrating the trust but anything that tries to take our rights away from us is just wrong. They want to take our vote away.”

Tina Barnard, chief executive of Watford Community Housing Trust, said: “The rules we are proposing to adopt are already used by the majority of housing associations across the country.

“As well as keeping us up to date with changes to the law, they would ensure that tenants remain at the heart of decision-making and that the services we provide meet the highest standards.”