A man convicted of arson after setting a townhouse on fire as revenge for not being paid $36,000 he was owed by the builder has lost an appeal.

A security guard who burned down a townhouse out of revenge was only caught out years later when his ex-wife went to police.

The man, who has not been named in court documents, appealed against a five-year jail sentence imposed after the 2007 incident, but his application was rejected.

Court of Appeal documents published on Tuesday show the man deliberately burned down a townhouse at a development site in Deception Bay, north of Brisbane.

The company building the townhouse and 30 others on the site owed the man’s security business more than $36,000.

Justice James Douglas said during the trial the prosecution submitted the man not only committed the crime as “a form of payback”, but thought the arson on a housing estate would be good for his security business.

The court heard the man and two employees planned the attack and committed it in the middle of the night by smashing a window, throwing accelerant in the house and lighting it.

Justice Douglas said the trio almost got away with the blaze, which was seen 400m away and injured one of the man’s co-offenders, after an administrative error meant the man’s business was never listed as a creditor.

“The events occurred in 2007 but (the man’s) involvement only came to light years later when his ex-wife and a disgruntled employee went to the police,” he said.

“Further investigations included intercepted telephone calls where the admissions by (the man) were recorded.”

The man argued to the Court of Appeal that his five-year sentence, to be suspended after six months, was excessive.

But Justice Douglas and his two colleagues on the bench unanimously agreed there was nothing to suggest the sentence was outside the normal range.

“This was a planned arson, motivated by vengeance for outstanding debts where there was considerable financial loss and the potential for a threat to the lives of others,” Mr Douglas said.