In the 17th century German settlements were founded according to "Hollaender" rules. The land of the newly founded villages was given to the settlers for 40 years as hereditary leasehold. Initially the settlers did not have to work for the land owners as socage. They also were allowed to sell what they had produced to everyone.
Besides the individually leased land there also was common property that belonged to the village community. The common property usually consisted of woodland or meadows and was used by every member of the community. Sometimes the village community also paid for a herdsman.
The Schulze (mayor) of the village was free elected. He represented the jurisdiction of the village and collected the rent for the land owner. If one of the village inhabitants was not able to pay the full rent, the other members of the community had to pay more.
The village rules were fixed in written form in the "Willkür". The "Willkür" defined the rights and the duties of the members of the village community.
If somebody wanted to sell his farm to a stranger, he was only allowed to do so , when the rest of the community agreed with the selling and the buyer.
Often several villages joined in a "Brandordnung", a unified community for limiting the damages caused by fire.
Willkür of the village Lengden (taken from: Emil Mielke- Schlonsk)
The "Brandordnung" defined the measures for preventing fire and also the penalties for ignoring them.
If a member of the "Brandordnung" lost part of his property in a fire that he wasn't responsible for, the other members paid him compensation for the damage. If a farm-hand or a farm girl also lost his or her property in the fire, half of it was compensated by the farmers, the other half was compensated by the other farm-hands or farm girls living in the area of the "Brandordnung".
In such a village community the word "neighbor" had a very different meaning from what it stands for today. Being a neighbor meant that there were much more obligations for an individual towards the community. It also meant that the individual was protected but also was controlled by the community.
Sources: Emil Mielke: Schlonsk; Albert Breyer: Deutsche Gaue in Mittelpolen