Personal details - including addresses, contact details, gender and sexual orientation - of thousands of tenants was leaked in an email.

The blunder was made by Watford Community Housing Trust when it sent out an email last night (March 23) to all tenants to inform them of changes to services during the coronavirus outbreak.

But attached to the email was a spreadsheet that contained personal information of the housing association's 3,545 tenants. 

The information included full names, gender, addresses, mobile numbers, email addresses, ethnic origins, religion and sexual orientation.

The email intended to inform residents of updates on the housing trust's website regarding questions during the outbreak and the closure of its offices on Clarendon Road.

Customers were also asked to provide up-to-date contact details for the database in case the association needed to contact customers during this time.

It is believed that all of the email addresses listed in the spreadsheet received the same leaked document.

Sasha, from Watford, one of the tenants who had her details leaked, said: “With everything going on, this is the last thing vulnerable people need.

“There’s vulnerable people out there, the information being leaked has put so many tenants in life changing and life-threatening situations.

“This is not appropriate. Therefore, an apology isn’t enough – everyone should be compensated.”

Hannah Fidelia, from Holywell, says as single mother with a young child, she considers herself to be in the vulnerable group.

She said: “It states every single person's addresses and our personal information. I have seen at least ten people that I have avoided and now they know where I live. It doesn’t make me feel safe.

“How is a document allowed to be even stored like that. It should be stored separately so this kind of thing never happens.

“My dad hadn’t seen the email, and there are lots of elderly people who do not use email that are out there right now, who are vulnerable and not knowing their details are out there.”

She said she also felt “horrible” seeing that private details like sexuality have been shared to thousands of people.

Tina Barnard, the chief executive of Watford Community Housing, said: “We apologise unreservedly for this breach and share our customers’ concerns.

“We take our responsibilities with customer information extremely seriously and this was the result of human error.

“In line with our commitment to being transparent, we have moved quickly to inform the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and we will work closely with the Information Commissioner as required.

"We will also carry out a full review of our processes to ensure this could not happen again.

“We are taking a variety of steps to assess the potential impact on those affected by the breach, including identifying any safeguarding concerns, and we are contacting our customers to provide information, guidance and support.

“Anyone with concerns should email and we will contact them.”

The housing association later issued an apology to everyone through email, requesting that the email is deleted.

It explained that the information held - including sexuality - is collected from customers with permission to "tailor" services and comply with "regulatory duties around tennant involvement and empowerment".

Ms Fidelia added: “The apology is not good enough. I don’t know where they can go from here as the damage is done, but I want to be moved to another location now.”