Dozens of people have been given just nine days’ notice to evacuate their homes for up to a year amid safety fears.

On Friday (February 9) Watford Community Housing (WCH) told Cygnet House and Plover House residents that they must leave their homes by Sunday (February 18) after the building contractor's engineers raised concerns over “structural defects”.

Families were told to pack for a stay of up to six weeks in temporary accommodation, but WCH said it was in contact with them to find long-term accommodation afterwards — as works may take “as long as 12 months”.

It described the "difficult decision" as a "precautionary but necessary measure".

"From the initial surveys that have already taken place, we believe that further remediation works will be needed for each home and the wider building, in order to make the building safe for residents to return home," WCH added.

A letter offered three options open to those living in the 23 Meriden homes, above the shopping parade in York Way.

They can stay with family or friends and receive weekly payments to support living costs, have temporary accommodation (such as a hotel) booked and paid for by WCH, or find somewhere else themselves and discuss arrangements for the provider to “cover reasonable costs where possible”.

Watford Observer: The Meriden Estate in November last year.The Meriden Estate in November last year. (Image: Stephen Packman)

Exactly what works are needed to make the building safe for residents is not yet known, as the results of the full investigation are not yet in. However, it will involve “intrusive surveys and construction works”.

Councillor Jennifer Pattinson, who is responsible for housing in the borough, said: "This is a distressing and challenging situation for the Watford Community Housing residents affected.

"Safety must come first and it is only right that Watford Community Housing are keeping this at the centre of all their decision-making.

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“Watford Borough Council’s priority now is to support the wellbeing of those impacted and councillors have met with the residents to hear first-hand what this situation means for them.

"We are regularly liaising with Watford Community Housing and are ready to offer extra support to house residents if needed.”

WCH will arrange for a removals company and cover moving costs as well as arranging safe storage for belongings such as furniture. Residents are expected to keep paying rent on their homes, while new accommodation will be paid for by WCH.

Of the 23 properties, four are one-bedroom while the rest are two-bedroom. One is currently vacant.