I've only been out here in Dallas for a couple years now so I don't really know how strict the no BBQs on the apartment patio regulations are. Every apartment complex i've lived in has said "no BBQs on the patio, they have to be 15ft from the building" or something like that. But also every apartment i've lived in i've seen dozens of people with BBQs on their patios/balconys.
I've really wanted to BBQ recently (I used to live in California where BBQ is a year round deal) and finally have the money to buy a moderately priced BBQ but I'm concerned that if it bother's a neighbor that they will report it to the Apt Mgmt and i'll have to keep it put away (even though in my general area i've seen at least 3-4 patios with BBQs on them).
By BBQ are you talking grills? charcoal or gas? I think there's a possibility of a fire hazard, but I'm not sure. Most charcoal grills need to have an airway in the bottom and will allow hot ash to fall down through it. Some balconies are made of wood or possibly paper or other flammable objects are stored on patios - you can see the problem there. Gas grills can inadvertently be left on without the flame and could seep into your or a neighbor's apartment... another problem. To avoid liabilities of any kind, I'd adhere to the rules set by the apartment complex, regardless of what others do.
Believe nothing you hear and half of what you see, but I have lived in apts. for the last 10 years and was told that if a fire marshall happened to get wind of someone with an open flame on an apartment patio, the fine would be steep. I would check with the fire dept. for a definitive answer.
Talked with the head of maintenance who's friendly and pretty honest and he basically said if something bad happens its a big deal and that sometimes if they see somebody they will tell them to put it away but it sounds like they don't really do much about it.
I asked about an electric smoker and he said if there's no open flame its not a big deal.
So i might just go with the smoker option.