Teenage Entrepreneur Wins Fight Against BureaucRATS:Christian Alf allowed to go back to work rat-proofing roofs

John Kramer
John Kramer · April 28, 2004

Tempe, Ariz.—Christian Alf, the teenage entrepreneur who dominated local headlines after being put out of business by the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission, will resume his after-school enterprise rat-proofing roofs in Tempe. In a letter responding to the Institute for Justice Arizona Chapter’s threat of legal action, the Pest Control Commission’s executive director, Lisa Gervase, says she “has determined that the limited, specific facts of this matter do not constitute the business of structural pest control.” The Commission has now closed the matter and deleted it pursuant to state law.

“This is a terrific victory for Christian’s right to earn an honest living,” declared Tim Keller, an IJ Arizona Chapter staff attorney. “There is no doubt the Commission exceeded its legitimate regulatory authority and acted not to protect consumers, but rather existing pest control businesses from competition.”

The Commission’s letter was a complete reversal of its earlier position that Christian Alf must have a license to place wire mesh over pipes and vents to prevent roof rats from entering attics—even though he did not use pesticides or try to capture or kill the rodents. Performing unlicensed pest control work may result in a $1,000 fine. Gervase had previously told the Arizona Republic’s Laurie Roberts in no uncertain terms that Christian was controlling a pest and was required to be licensed. Gervase said, “There is no discretion as to what method he is using to control the pest. If he’s doing pest-control work, it requires a license, both in terms of health concerns and financial concerns.” Now, the Commission is wishing Christian “well in his future endeavors.”

“There is no doubt that Christian’s work was not pest control as defined by state law or even the Commission’s own standards,” Keller said. “There was no rational basis to require Christian to obtain a pest control license. This government office was simply going out of its way to shut down honest enterprise in favor of existing companies. Unfortunately, this is something that is happening across the country and something the Institute for Justice is working to stop through its litigation.”

Indeed, one of the main texts the Commission urges potential licensees to read, a 500-page scientific guide to pest control operations, says that “[i]n the normal course of commercial pest control work, it is not always possible to do extensive rodentproofing . . . [so] the professional should take every opportunity to educate building owners as to the importance of building maintenance and encourage them to seal holes and cracks in doors and windows and around pipes and wiring.” In other words, licensed pest control businesses are too busy to “rodent proof” so the homeowner should do it themselves or hire a neighborhood kid to do it for them!

Christian is not bitter about his experience, but wiser for it. He said, “I’ve learned a lot about the way government works and the potential for abuse of power. I’m glad that the Commission has now said I can go back to work. There are a lot of people who need my help.”

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