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This question is on the Canada law list. I will ask the site to move this question over to the US law list.
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Under the Fair Housing Act, the management has a right to ban smoking in all common areas connected to the building. So, you are on the right track by trying to get a petition together and send it to the board directly if you have to. The problem is that even if one resident complains that his health is being affected by a permitted smoking area closer to the building, it can open up the apartment complex to a lawsuit. So, this is why a recent policy change may have occurred.