A Housing Authority tenant locked out of his home after a five-month absence may have to wait years before getting another flat of the same quality after losing a court case yesterday. Au Kwok-hung missed the 15-day deadline for lodging an appeal against a notice to quit dated April 30 last year, after he did not return from the mainland on time and left his rent unpaid. The appeals panel of the Housing Authority declined to handle his case, saying it had no jurisdiction to hear an appeal filed past the deadline. Mr Au, who blamed ill health for his late return, was almost three months' late in serving his notice of appeal, which was submitted on August 10. Mr Justice Michael Hartmann ruled in favour of the panel, noting that the Housing Authority was under considerable pressure to secure housing for a growing list of applicants. 'It follows, therefore, that when accommodation becomes available the authority has a duty to allocate it as soon as reasonably possible,' the Court of First Instance judge said. The Lower Ngau Tau Kok (II) Estate unit which Mr Au had occupied alone from January 1998 has since been given to a new tenant. Mr Au was given alternative accommodation. 'The applicant now resides in what is called temporary accommodation and it may well be several years before he can hope to be given permanent accommodation of the kind he previously enjoyed,' Mr Justice Hartmann said. The judge ruled a tenant who did not comply with the time limit should be barred totally from pursuing his appeal: 'If that were not the case . . . that would not be in the greater public interest.' The notice to quit was served after Mr Au failed to pay the $480 a month rent since going to the mainland for Lunar New Year in February last year. He returned home on July 14 last year only to find the lock changed and his belongings gone.