The word ‘mesne’ or ‘mesne profits’ should be familiar to anyone who has a dream to own a land or property or already has but if it is not, you are on the right page. Like the word ‘Economics’ which can be defined in various ways but has certain basic terms, ‘mesne profits’ can also be generated in different ways and is just as old as Economics itself since it originated from the medieval times under the feudal system where all land was owned by the King.
During this time, the king would give his barons land if they give him soldiers whenever he wanted to raise an army and they in turn rented the part of the land out to tenant farmers who would pay rent; usually in form of crops and livestock. Soon this turned into a nice way of raising money by charging rent for the land and the idea of tenancy was birthed. The person to whom you paid your rent became known as the ‘mesne landlord’ which means ‘intermediate’ in old French.
In modern terms however, because ‘rent’ has acquired a different meaning in modern property law, ‘mesne profits’ is now earmarked for the entitlement a landlord has after a tenancy has been terminated but the tenant refuses to leave. It shows that while the person occupying the property is no longer a tenant, the landlord is still eligible to be rewarded for the continued stay of the tenant within the premises.
They are also the sums of money paid for occupying or using a land to the person who has the immediate right of occupying that land when permission has not been given or granted to the present occupant which makes the person a trespasser. A tenant who therefore continues to stay on a property after a court has issued a judgment for possession to the landlord owes the landlord the value of the time spent there without permission. Since mesne profits are profits accumulated from damages for trespass, it can only be claimed from the date when the occupier ceased to hold the premises as a tenant and became a trespasser.
Since mesne profits are profits or the value generated from land during the time someone was wrongfully occupying the land, it means that if someone farms a plot of land without permission, any profit from that activity would be owed to the actual landowner. The profit is based however on the land itself rather than any form of development on it.
For instance, mesne profits can amass from growing crops on a land but would not necessarily be generated from a factory built on the land unless of course there was any form of mutilation or enhancements to the land itself such that the original state of the land before the occupier took possession was affected.
For mesne profits to be approved by the law, the plaintiff must show proof of gaining possession of property back as well as his title during the period for which he claims. He must also be able to provide concrete fact that the defendant has been in possession during that period and give an estimated amount of the mesne profits generated within that time.
The amount recovered as mesne profits is however not necessarily limited to the rental value of the land, but may also include a sum to cover such items as deterioration or reasonable costs of getting possession. The landlord may recover in an action for mesne profits the damages which he has suffered through being out of possession of the land.
Because mesne profits occur mostly where a landlord has gotten an order from a court to eject a tenant or where someone decides to sue to evict a bona-fide landowner whose title to land was not suitably carried out or even where a landowner sues to eject a tenant from his land, the profit accrued from the duration the tenant took unlawful ownership to the duration of trial for an action of eviction or possession is given up by the tenant or more appropriately the trespasser.
Mesne profits are therefore basically nothing more than the term attributed to damages for trespass by illegal occupation of land where the trespasser used to be a tenant.