Customary land tenure is seen as a field in which social and political relationships are diverse, overlapping and competing. Property regimes are, therefore, often analysed in terms of processes of negotiation, with people's social and political identities as central elements. This article studies the negotiability of customary tenure in peri-urban Ghana where land is at the centre of intense and unequal competition and closely tied up with struggles over authority. It focuses on one village to provide a grassroots view of processes of contestation of customary rights to land. The analysis of how and to what extent local actors in this village deal with, negotiate and struggle for rights to land confirms that contestants for land never operate on a level playing field. Postulating the social inequalities of local communities, the article analyses whether it is useful to place all local land dealings under the term ‘negotiations’, or whether such a characterization stretches the boundaries of the term too far and risks undermining the significance of local stratification and ignoring the winners and losers in a contest with uncertain rules.